YODER – One of the most terrifying things as a parent is seeing your children get hurt. For Kyle Havner and Kristina Barnett, that feeling was amplified after their one-year-old son, Cooper, was bitten by a rattlesnake.
Havner was outside playing with Cooper and his two older brothers, six-year-old Bentley and four-year old Carter, when the rattlesnake struck twice hitting Cooper on the inside of both of his legs.
“We were hanging out that day in the yard and Cooper was with his two older brothers and they were playing with a ball,” Havner said. “One of the kids threw the ball across the road so I was walking over to go get it for them and the three of them were standing there with the rattlesnake between all of them.”
When Havner got back to his kids, his instant reaction was to grab Cooper because he was starting to move towards the rattlesnake and was about to step on it.
“I stepped in front of it and grabbed [Cooper] and by the time I even pulled him away, it managed to strike twice,” Havner said. “It instantly brushed off my leg once and then just hit Cooper right in the middle of his shorts while I was already pulling him away and got one fang in each of his legs.”
Havner said after the bite he was able to stay calm even though he was panicked inside and never had to deal with a snake bite before but knew from taking hunter safety courses the most important thing is to stay calm.
Cooper cried a little bit when he saw the snake strike at him, but he didn’t even realize he had been bitten by the snake. He stayed calm the entire time and acted as if nothing had happened to him.
Immediately following the bite, Havner quickly got the three kids away from the snake and tried to help Cooper remain calm while he called 911. Havner said by Cooper not crying, it helped the situation a lot.
The 911 operator told Havner to get in his vehicle and immediately head to Torrington, so Cooper could receive medical attention. He didn’t have a vehicle, but a neighbor was home and they quickly jumped in the vehicle and headed towards Torrington.
“We met EMS on the top of a hill somewhere between Yoder and Torrington,” Havner said. “We swapped [vehicles] and [Cooper] still wasn’t crying. He was very alert and was looking out the windows pointing and just being normal Cooper.”
When they arrived at the hospital in Torrington, doctors were unsure what to do at first since they never dealt with a snake bite to an infant before. They didn’t know whether or not to give him a full dose of the antivenom.
The doctors made a few phone calls to Poison Control to determine what dosage they needed to give to Cooper. They found out adults and children get the same dosage of the antivenom, and they immediately began giving Cooper the antivenom.
Initially, the plan was to airlift Cooper to the Children’s Hospital in Aurora, Colorado, but due to the tornado in Colorado, they instead had to take him by ambulance to the Children’s Hospital.
Barnett rode in the ambulance with Cooper to the Children’s Hospital and Havner followed closely behind in their vehicle. During the trip however, they needed to stop at the hospital in Cheyenne to give Cooper another dose of the antivenom.
“They had given Cooper fentanyl, I believe, before leaving Torrington, so he fell asleep instantly and wasn’t in pain anymore,” Barnett said. “By the time we had gotten to Cheyenne, he had woken up and was screaming and trying to rip everything off of him.”
After EMS checked the markings made on Cooper’s legs, they noticed the redness had spread about an inch since leaving Torrington. They called the doctor back in Torrington and he told them they needed to stop in Cheyenne to give Cooper a second dose of the antivenom.
They stayed in Cheyenne for about 20-30 minutes while Cooper received his second dose of the antivenom and then continued the rest of the way to the Children’s Hospital. They checked into the hospital at around 11 p.m. Monday night.
Cooper and his family were dispatched from the hospital on Wednesday. Doctors wanted to hold him for at least 24 hours to watch his progress and to see if the redness continued to spread, if he was acting normal and having a physical therapist work with him to make sure he was up and walking.
Doctors were also concerned with venom being in the tissue since the bite on one side of his leg wasn’t very deep. They worried about him moving around and playing like normal that some of the venom might be able to get back into his system.
“We were all amazed, he actually would’ve never stopped walking if they didn’t make him sit up in the hospital bed,” Havner said. “It never really stopped him from doing anything, besides when he was in pain and had to go through the antivenom. After that, he was ready to come home. He kept pointing to the door and just wanted to go outside.”
Barnett said Cooper has a large bruise on the outside of his leg and where the snake bit him looks like normal skin, but it’s hard and warm to the touch. She said you can tell he gets tired, or his legs start after walking for a little bit and he will sit down and rub his legs and then get up and keep on going.
Havner thinks because Cooper didn’t panic, cry or get his heart rate up, it kept the venom from spreading more throughout his body. Remaining calm and keeping your heart rate low if you’ve been bitten by a snake is the most important thing you can do.
Goshen County Coroner and Executive Director of Torrington EMS Darin Yates offered some suggestions for people who deal with a rattlesnake bite.
“Call 911 immediately, keep calm and protect the affected limb, remove any jewelry/watches, can cover the wound with a dry clean dressing, do not apply a tourniquet, do not apply ice to the wound, do not cut and attempt to suck out the venom,” Yates said. “Our hospital does carry the antivenom, and it’s important to be evaluated and treated in the Emergency Department.”
Havner wanted to let people know that it doesn’t hurt to be checking your yards once per week for rattlesnakes. Keeping your grass short and checking around rocks and other areas around your yard.
“This happened to us right in our front yard where our kids play every single day,” Havner said. “Walk around your yard, check under things, make sure nothing’s making a home or no food is lying to attract any rodents because that stuff attracts snakes.”
Havner said their neighbor hunted down the rattlesnake and killed it while they were at the hospital with Cooper. The snake is currently in their freezer and the plan is to get it tanned and get a few pictures with Cooper holding it and then give it to him as a commemorative piece.
Barnett and Havner wanted to thank all the people in the community for their support and prayers they gave to Cooper and their family. They are fairly new to the Yoder community and really appreciated all the support they received from people they didn’t even know.
“I was getting messages that somebody from a church had received that information about Cooper and told the whole church and they were all praying for us,” Barnett said.
“Hundreds and hundreds of people that we don’t even know, so just thank you to everyone,” Havner said. “We were glad he was in everyone’s prayers and thoughts. We were in a moment where we had no clue what was going on. We didn’t know if rattlesnake bites kill one-year-olds, we were just in a panic, so thank you to everyone for your concern.”