Four-Year-Old Airlifted From Hiking Trail After Venomous Snakebite

A Palm Springs, California–area volunteer rescue team was sent on an urgent mission on Saturday: A 4-year-old had been bitten by a rattlesnake on a nearby trail and required immediate medical assistance.

According to NBC Palm Springs, the Palm Springs Mounted Police Search and Rescue team happened to be conducting training with a California Highway Patrol Helicopter at the time of the incident. They were reportedly about to take a lunch break when the message came in over the radio.

"We knew that the location was about a 30- to 45-minute hike to get to them," said team leader Doug Stevens. He added, "We had the helicopter all morning, so we went right in our mode of rescue and we flew in and were there in five minutes," "We had a landing zone already set up so we were able to fly in, extricate him" and "get him to the landing zone."

For Stevens, the emergency was a first in his decades-long career. "In the 40 years I've done this, this is the first snakebite I've ever been on," he told NBC Palm Springs.

The child was immediately brought to Loma Linda University Health (LLUH), a level-one trauma center in the region. Most of the area's snakebite victims are brought to the facility, making their staff particularly skilled at handling those types of cases.

As the vice chair of emergency medicine at LLUH Dr. Lance Brown noted, time is the most essential factor when treating a snakebite. "Giving the anti-venom is important and it's important to do it quickly," he said. "A child gets more venom per kilogram of body weight than an adult would so they're more serious for your average bite... this is something that can progress [to] very severe illness in a matter of hours."

Brown also has some advice for anyone who might encounter a venomous snake in the future: ignore the movies. "Sucking venom is a great scene for a movie but it's not good medical care, don't cut it, don't suck on it, don't put a tourniquet above it, get to medical care," he said.

Doug Stevens called his team's proximity to the little boy's location "a blessing."

"I don't know if I want to call it luck, call it more of a blessing," he said. "I think God watches over us, they were definitely watching over that little boy."

According to KESQ, the 4-year-old is expected to recover from the bite just fine.

Rattlesnake with Red Background
A rattlesnake in Nicaragua, March 2021. A Palm Springs, California–area volunteer rescue team was sent on an urgent mission on Saturday: A 4-year-old had been bitten by a rattlesnake on a nearby trail and required immediate medical assistance. INTI OCON/AFP via Getty Images