Brisbane nurse in dash to survive viper bite

Brisbane nurse in dash to survive viper bite

Delmae Ryan and her husband Jack, getting treatment in hospital. Delmae Ryan’s foot after the snake bite.
Wuxi Plastic Surgery

An Australian travelling in Nepal made a dash back to Brisbane after suffering a rare, life-threatening snake bite, triggering a national search for anti-venom.

Delmae Ryan was with her husband Jack in the Nepalese city of Pokhara on September 27, when she was bitten by a Pit Viper while she was getting into a car.

“It felt like a smack on my leg, a hard hit and pain,” she said. “All I could see was two blood spots.”

They headed to the local hospital as Ms Ryan’s leg began to swell rapidly. Her condition became a topic of conversation for everyone in the hospital – from curious bystanders to patients to doctors – who were unable to find an anti-venom to treat the bite.

“It was a very scary experience. There was no privacy. The whole community that was in hospital at the time was watching and giving their opinions in Nepali,” she said.

There was also the issue of hygiene. Ms Ryan, an enrolled nurse, believed the conditions were unsafe and she and Jack decided to try to rush back to Australia, against the advice of local doctors.

After the doctors reluctantly signed a form permitting her to board an aircraft, and the Ryans arrived back in Brisbane after stopovers in Kathmandu and Hong Kong.

But instead of going to a hospital in Brisbane straight away, Ms Ryan admits she was complacent.

She visited her local GP in Logan south of Brisbane.

And when the swelling hadn’t gone down two days later, she was admitted to Logan Hospital.

Alarmingly, test results revealed that if she suffered a fall or cut herself, she ran the risk of death because her blood was not able to clot.

Ms Ryan was transferred to the Princess Alexandra Hospital, where emergency physician Colin Page began was handed the unenviable task of finding an anti-venom for a snake that doesn’t exist in Australia.

Dr Page said he made more than 80 calls to other zoos, anti-venom suppliers, and universities around the country. After 24 hours, researchers from Monash University in Melbourne were able to send an anti-venom they thought could treat the bite, but there was still uncertainty.

The medication was flown up and given to Ms Ryan on Sunday at 1pm, and she is now expected to make a full recovery.

“This was a very complicated and challenging process. We had very little experience with overseas snakes in Australia,” Dr Page said.

“Her blood tests were completely abnormal, but to look at her from the end of the bed, you may not think she was that unwell. If something was to go wrong, it could go wrong very quickly. There’s no doubt this was a potentially deadly envenomation.”

With summer approaching, Dr Page said the incident served as a reminder that snake bites should be treated in hospital immediately.

Ms Ryan says she hopes to return to work in the next few weeks, but will need to wait until she can put weight on her leg.

“We’re Christians so we had lots of people praying for us. We had many answers to prayer in a short period of time,” she said.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.