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Puff Adder Bite

Puff Adder Bite

The camp director had previously called the hospital and a helicopter was waiting at the trail head. During the 30 minute helicopter ride I was going in and out of consciousness, having trouble keeping my eyes open.

We arrived at the Mafikeng hospital, where the doctor in the emergency room decided that my case was too severe to treat at that medical center. He told me this, which was the last thing I heard before going unconscious.

Although I was unconscious for approximately the next 24 hours, I have heard about the following events from my parents.

I was taken from the Mafikeng hospital to Ferncrest Hospital in Rustenburg the trauma center for North West Province . My snake bite was determined to be too severe for Mafikeng Hospital to deal with. At the Ferncrest Hospital I underwent a fasciotomy, which involved the doctors cutting open my arm from the palm up to about the middle of my biceps. This was to relieve the extreme pressure that had built up in my arm from the puff adder venom, making my arm as hard as a rock until the fasciotomy.

I spent the next 35 days in the Ferncrest Hospital, had eight surgeries performed for cleaning out the dead tissue from my arm, and finally had a skin graft from my leg to close up my arm, which had remained open for 30 days after the fasciotomy until the skin graft surgery. That is 10 surgeries in total at Ferncrest Hospital.

I was released from the hospital on August 24, had four months of intense physical therapy, and flew to Bloemfontein University Medical Center in Freestate for a follow-up surgery. This was a vascular flap surgery, during which they took a chunk of skin and muscle from my back, attached its blood vessels to the ones in my arm using microsurgery, and then stitched it to my arm. Although 2 emergency surgeries were required within 24 hours on account of blood loss, the vascular flap was a success, and after six more months of physical therapy, my hand had a significant improvement in mobility from when I left University of Freestate Medical Hospital and could move each finger only 2-3 millimetres.

My hand now has fully mobility and is about 80 percent as strong as it was before, thanks to my Dad and I resuming our rock climbing after a one year break due to the lack of strength in my left hand. I use it for about 90 percent of the things I used to do with my left hand (I am right handed). 13 surgeries, R3700000 worth of helicopter flights, surgeries, and hospital stays (paid by my insurance), and 20 months later, I am very happy with the outcome of this experience and my good fortune of getting through all this without any significant loss.

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