Boy bitten by rattlesnake upgraded to serious condition

GOOSE CREEK, SC (WCSC) - An 8-year-old boy who was bit by a rattlesnake at Wannamaker County Park last week has been upgraded to serious condition Tuesday.

Family members say Zach Szalas ran off a trail and stepped onto the snake. Zach was rushed to MUSC where he received more than 30 vials of anti-venom, but he still can't breathe on his own or open his eyes. He was upgraded to serious condition Tuesday from critical.

"The first thing I saw was the rattle," Ansley Crabtree said.

Crabtree, of Goose Creek, said she immediately knew her nephew, Zach Szala, had been bitten by a rattlesnake.

She had taken Zach, along with his sister and their two cousins, to Wannamaker Park in North Charleston last Wednesday. She said Zach ran off the path and stepped on the rattlesnake. It bit him twice in the leg. Crabtree said he immediately began to lose consciousness and had trouble breathing.

"This whole thing has been surreal because you only see these things in movies," Crabtree said.

She said doctors later told her it was a Timber Rattlesnake, and judging by the two-inch bite on Zach's leg, doctors told her the snake was probably about six feet long.

Zach was rushed to MUSC, and Crabtree said he's received over 30 vials of anti-venom but still cannot breath on his own or even open his eyes.

"They say this is the worst bite they've seen or dealt with at MUSC," Crabtree said.

An emergency room doctor at MUSC, who wouldn't comment on Zach's case specifically, said most children and adults make a full recovery from snake bites.

"There's only five or six deaths from rattlesnake bites in the U.S. per year, and that's with a lot of different bites, so it's rarely fatal and you can usually make an excellent recovery with the anti-venom," Dr. Keith Borg said.

Crabtree said it's just a waiting game for the anti-venom to kick-in. She said in the meantime, she wants all parents to learn a valuable lesson.

"I really just want the moms to be aware there are poisonous snakes out there and not to let their kids go off the path," Crabtree said.

Tom O'Rourke, the Executive Director of Charleston County Parks and Recreation, said he's never seen anyone bitten by a rattlesnake in his 10 years on the job.

He said park officials didn't kill the rattlesnake that bit Zach because with the park being 10-thousand acres, it'd be impossible to kill every poisonous snake.

But O'Rouke said it's a terrible situation, and his thoughts are with Zach and his family.

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