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Friday, January 29th, 2016  |  USD: Buy 531.29 / Sell 543.92
20 years

Canadian man recovering after snakebite left him weeping blood

bothrops snake

Bothrops snake (via Wikipedia)

March 22nd, 2013 ( A Canadian man who suffered a potentially deadly snake bite while visiting Costa Rica is recovering in a hospital in the city of Vancouver in his home country, thanks to the quick action of a medical team and an emergency flight to Seattle to retrieve an antidote to the venom.


The 61-year-old, who lives in Vancouver, Canada, was bitten by a poisonous snake earlier this week while walking along a beach in Costa Rica at night, and quickly developed symptoms including kidney failure, painful swelling of his leg, and bleeding from his eyes.


According to a report in the Globe and Mail, the man initially went to a medical clinic while still in Costa Rica, but the language barrier prevented him from getting anything more than minimal help, so he flew home.


Dr. Roy Purssell, director of the British Colombia Drug and Poison Information Center, said the snake venom causes major problems with blood clotting.


“The patient was having bleeding from various areas, and his tears actually had turned to blood,” he said in an interview with The Canadian Press.


The doctor said a medical team from his center and Vancouver General Hospital managed to identify a venomous pitviper, known as a Bothrops snake, as the culprit in the attack, based on the mans symptoms which included damage to his kidneys which required dialysis.


The team then determined that the closest antidote was at a zoo in Seattle, WA, and made arrangements to have it picked up by an air ambulance helicopter.


“We had sorted out which snake it likely was and the location of the anti-venom by about noon that day and the patient was actually given the anti-venom by just after six o’clock, so we were actually pretty impressed by (the speed of the response),” he said.


He said once the drug was administered the patient began to improve almost immediately.


“The abnormalities and blood clotting were starting to resolve within minutes. They were dramatically better within a couple of hours, and almost back to normal within a few hours after that,” Dr. Purssell said.


He said the man didn’t even know a snake had bitten him so the medical team had its work cut out for it in making the diagnosis.


“We deduced what had occurred, figured out which snake it had to be, got the correct anti-venom and it was just gratifying to see how quickly he’d responded to it,” he said.


The man is now in stable condition in Vancouver General Hospital, and Dr. Purssell said he might suffer some permanent kidney damage from his ordeal.



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  • disgusted

    Lucky he was able to survive. What beach area. And does the Caja or any other hospitals here have the anti venom??

    • MJ

      I would assume they have the anti venom since it is the most common venomous bite in CR. However….why did the medical staff not recognize the symptoms since it is so common??

  • Gene Warneke

    Yes, the CAJA has anti-venom for the fer-de-lance and other venomous snakes. In Costa Rica, it’s NOT advisable to walk at night along streams and beach areas where rivers empty into the ocean. These are areas where venomous snakes hang out at night seeking amphibian prey. I know this from first-hand experiences.

  • Siegfried Gust

    I don’t know how you get bit by a pit viper, most likely a terciopelo, and not know it. Had he know, treatment would have been administered here in Costa Rica without problems. They keep anti-venom in supply in the hospital in Upala because of how often people get bit, and I imagine in other hospitals as well. I have a hard time believing the language barrier was the problem, as all doctors I’ve met could understand and speak rudimentary English.

    • Patrick

      Yea – unless you know what the cause of your ailment is, I find that the diagnostics skills to lack in CR

  • Aitor Xaranga

    The decision to fly back home could have killed him or impaired his kidneys for life. All regional hospitals have anti-venom, mostly developed locally and in Brazil. Dr. Picado in the early part of last century was one of the leading investigators on anti-venom treatments in the world and many of his findings are reflected in todays serums.
    CR is not only about beaches and jungles…

    • Patrick

      Read the article. He didn’t know that he had even been bitten by a snake.

  • georgechapogas


  • Reve Orange

    The key to this story is in this line “He said the man didn’t even know a snake had bitten him so the medical team had its work cut out for it in making the diagnosis.” Was he drunk, stoned??? How can you not know you were bitten by a snake? And any hospital, clinic or pharmacist in Costa Rica could diagnosis a snake bite. And they all have the anti-venom.

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