7-year-old Mia was bitten by a snake in her backyard. It took 18 vials of antivenom at MCG's Children's Medical Center to save her. (May 31, 2011 / WRDW-TV)
News 12 at Six O'Clock / Tuesday, May 31, 2011
SPRINGFIELD, S.C. -- There are more than 40 different kinds of snakes in Georgia and South Carolina, and only six of them are venomous. When one strikes, especially at a child, the poison can be deadly. Snakebites, however, are generally pretty rare. About 45,000 people report bites every year, not even twenty percent of those are venomous. Mia Walker was more than an hour away from help when she was bitten by a deadly snake; doctors say she is a walking miracle.
MIA, Mia - the name suits little Mia Walker perfectly, says her mom. The energetic little girl has been "missing in action" since the day she was born. Seven-year-old Mia was running around her backyard as usual about a year ago when she stepped on what she thought was a stick.
"I stepped on the stick and it felt like one or two little pokes. It felt like a piece of glass or something. I said PJ, PJ, something bit me!" Mia called out to her older brother, not realizing she'd been bitten by a timber rattlesnake.
Timber rattlesnakes are one of the most venomous snakes in South Carolina. Allergist Dr. Wasil Kahn explains, the species' toxicity in our region is higher than in other parts of the U.S. Their camouflage is so effective, they often looks just like a stick or small log. And their bite can be deadly.
"I picked my foot up and looked at it and there were two vein marks. I got a little dizzy."
Within minutes, little Mia collapsed, unconscious, and started convulsing. Her father, Paul, was doing yardwork and heard her screams.
"She was a color of purple that I never want to see again. It was a blood purple. Every vein from the top of her head throughout her body looked like fishnet."
Mia has lost her memory of the following hours, "I couldn't remember the snake. I thought it was a big, big dream."
It was more like a nightmare for Mia's Dad, as they waited for an ambulance. They transported Mia to the medic helicopter in Couchton, about thirty minutes away. The helicopter could not fly in to Springfield because summer storms were rolling in.
"Mia stopped breathing again, and I gave her mouth to mouth again."
Paul says he could only focus on keeping his little girl alive as they lay on their front porch.
Mia's mother Brandy was on a church trip when she got the terrifying phone call, "He told me that my husband had called. That Mia had been bitten by a poisonous snake and was unconscious but EMS was on the way."
Mia was flown to the NICU unit of MCG's Children's Medical Center. Paul says dozens of doctors and nurses lined the halls, all waiting for little Mia. It was a life or death emergency.
"You feel helpless. You can't do a thing for them but pray. And hope that the medical staff is prepared."
MCG was prepared. Doctors there tell News 12 the average snakebite requires only three or four vials of antivenin; Mia's case was so severe she needed 18 vials over the next twenty-four hours.
"She had enough poison in her to kill at least two adult grown men," Paul explains in disbelief.
Mia was alive, but gravely ill.
"I don't know that you can put that into words," adds Brandy. "It's like, thank God she's here, but what next? What now?"
Doctors were realistic with the Walkers. They told Paul and Brandy that Mia's organs and muscles could have permanent damage. The snake seemed to have bitten straight into her vein, not just into a muscle. A venous bite is a rare but possible circumstance which results in venom pumping throughout the blood and organ systems within seconds.
Amazingly, after a week in the NICU and a week more of observation, Mia was recovering just fine.
"Now, it's like nothing ever happened to her. She's our walking miracle," Brandy insists.
"She is our miracle child," adds Paul. "[MCG} saved us. They saved Mia. We'll be forever grateful and indebted to them."
Now "miracle" Mia is eight years old, understandably a bit wary to go outdoors by herself these days. Mia says she hopes that she won't ever have to miss two whole weeks of school ever again.
The family's pastor came to check on them the same day after hearing Mia was hospitalized. He ran over a snake in the Walker's driveway; it was a Timber Rattlesnake.
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