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Lifestyle & Human Interest

Woman Suffers Allergic Reaction and Dies After Being Bitten by Rattlesnake While Gardening

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Of all God’s creatures on this Earth, snakes are one of the least appreciated. They’re uncannily inhuman, with their scales and limbless slithering.

There’s an almost primal fear in us — perhaps because it was a snake in the garden that helped start our troubles — and most people give them a wide berth, whether or not the specimen in question is venomous.

For one Georgia woman, it was precisely a snake in her friend’s garden that caused her problems.

Priscilla Meridith was gardening on May 17 with her sister in Waverly, Georgia, picking up odds and ends, when she spotted a snake — but not before it spotted her.

“We were picking up things, garden tools, stepping stones,” Brenda Austen said, according to WJAX-TV. “And she went to sit down, and she jumped up and said, ‘Oh, there’s a snake! Oh, it bit me!’”

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The 62-year-old woman had stumbled into the path of a Canebrake rattlesnake, also known as a Timber rattlesnake — the third most dangerous kind of rattlesnake in North America, according to Reptiles Magazine.

Noted for its history with the early settlers and life-threatening venom, it’s also reported to be the snake featured on the easily recognizable Gadsden flag.

The complications were immediate. Not only had Meridith suffered a nasty bite, it soon became apparent that she was allergic to the venom.

In the ER, she experienced a heart attack, and by the time she was at the Southeast Georgia Health System Hospital Brunswick Campus, her organs had started to fail.

“Priscilla suffered a severe snake bite,” her GoFundMe page reads. “She is in the hospital in CCU had a severe allergic reaction and went into anaphylactic shock and had a heart attack and they brought her back. She is still in shock on a ventilator kidneys and liver are working at 30%. She is having dialysis every day.”

Meridith was placed in a coma in an attempt to let her body get the upper hand, but she passed away in June. The hospital did not give her antivenom, saying that she was allergic, but the family is now looking into her case and questioning the hospital’s decision.

According to WJAX-TV, Dr. Gaylord Lopez, Georgia Poison Control’s Managing Director, said that a large percentage of snake-bite victims don’t actually receive antivenom, but that he would have dealt differently with the situation.

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“Less than 25 percent of all bites that we get are patients that we recommend antivenom,” he said.

“In most cases where a patient requires antivenom, there are probably very few situations where I wouldn’t give it,” he said. “And if an allergic reaction is the main reason where someone’s being questioned, whether or not, I’ll treat the allergies, and give the antivenom.”

Dr. Benjamin N. Abo with Venom One and Venom Two response teams said he would have done the same.

“They absolutely need antivenom,” he said. “If they have an allergic reaction, even if it’s a serious one, we can treat that. That’s not a problem. But you’re guaranteed to have bad outcomes if you don’t treat the venom.”

A lot of factors go into determining whether a patient should be given antivenom, but the family is pursuing legal action against what they feel was negligence. They have also set up a GoFundMe to cover funeral costs for their beloved Priscilla Meridith.

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking