On Sept. 10, 16 month old Blake Skinner was bitten by a pygmy rattle snake near his home in Noble. He was taken to two other hospitals before being transferred to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center.
“Blake had received the regular anti-venom treatment at another hospital but it didn’t work. In fact, this particular snake bite is often resistant to traditional treatment,” says William Banner, M.D., PhD., a Pediatric Intensivist at INTEGRIS and Medical Director of the Oklahoma Center for Poison and Drug Information. “Working with the Poison Control Center, we decided to call the zoo to see if they stocked any unconventional anti-venoms that we may be able to try in this case. We felt his situation was extreme enough to warrant a more radical approach.”
Skinner’s condition was life-threatening. Because of the snake bite his blood would not clot, so even the slightest of injury could have been fatal. “Since our animal care staff works with venomous animals, we keep appropriate anti-venoms on hand as part of our safety protocols,” says Stacey Sekscienski, Curator of Reptiles, Amphibians, and Aquatics, at the Oklahoma City Zoo. “This was an emergency situation, so we were eager to help in any way possible.”
Skinner was given the unconventional anti-venom treatment on Sept. 14, four days after being bitten. He responded immediately and was released from the hospital two days later. He is expected to make a full recovery.
“This is an example of how when organizations work together, amazing things can happen,” says Letia Skinner, Blake’s mother. “I will be forever grateful to the medical professionals at INTEGRIS, Poison Control and the Oklahoma City Zoo for not being afraid to try something new and thinking outside of the box to save my child’s life.”
Poison Control says pygmy rattle snake bites are on the rise in Oklahoma. For example, there were a total of four such bites reported in 2014. So far this year, there have been 13 bites. Six have involved children. Thanks to Skinner’s success, a child in Tulsa was recently treated with a similar method and is doing fine.
While accredited zoos can’t come to the rescue in every case without dwindling their much needed anti-venom supply, positive outcomes such as this one only further develop the zoo’s strong partnerships with local organizations and support for the surrounding community.