8-year-old fighting side effects of snake bite

Canebrake rattlesnake (Nikki Gaskins/WCIV)

By Lia

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- An 8-year-old boy's face is paralyzed, and he is breathing through a tube after being bitten by a snake at a local park on last Wednesday.

The boy's aunt, Asnley Crabtree says he is in serious condition.

"It's just horrifying. It's been a nightmare," Crabtree said.

Her nephew, Zach Szalas, was bitten last Wednesday by a rattlesnake in Wannamaker Park. Crabtree had taken all the family kids out to the walking trails.

"We had gone off the trail maybe 15 feet and the boys were standing on a dead tree that had fallen," she said. "Zach stepped over it and I believe at that time he stepped on the rattlesnake."

Crabtree said it was an "enormous snake." Doctors said according to the two inch bites on Zach's leg, the snake was at least 6-foot long.

"He didn't cry, he didn't scream," she said. "He just said 'Aunt Ansley. that snake bit me.' "

Crabtree found a bench for him to rest while she waited for the ambulance to arrive. During that time, Zach's conditioned worsened. He developed more pain and had trouble breathing. He was rushed to the Medical University of South Carolina where he is now recovering.

His aunt says while there have been improvements to his liver and kidneys, Zach cannot breathe on his own. He also has facial paralysis, which can be a side effect to a venomous bite.

"They're doing everything they can do," she said. "It's the worst bite they've ever encountered."

Doctors gave 30 vials of anti-venom to Zach. That amount suggests how bad his condition really is, according to Summerville Medical Center Doctor, Tim Osbon.

"The larger the snake the more potent the venom," he said. "Believe it or not the temperament of the snake matters. If the snake is very perturbed they can inject actually more venom than they would ordinarily if they were just sort of surprised."

Officials at Wannamaker Park, where the boy was bitten, say the snake was a canebrake rattlesnake. It is often also referred to as a timber snake and is known to grow in excess of six feet. It is the largest viper-type snake found in the Carolinas.

Doctor Osbon said by the immediate reaction that Zach had, suggests the venom went straight into his veins, which is rare.

"It will have much more quick effects in terms of child becoming ill," he said.

Doctor Osbon advises, whenever you get a snake bite to seek medical care immediately. He said it will decrease the amount of tissue damage and toxicity the patient experiences.

"Mortality increases with the delay of care. The more quickly someone can get to the hospital after being bitten by any snake, much less a timber snake - - time is of the essence," he said.

Crabtree said the family is praying for a full recovery for her nephew.

"It's been a really bad experience but everyone has pulled through to help Zach out."