Fort Worth, Texas,
11:26 AM

From Caregiver to Patient. What a Cook Children’s Provider Learned after Snake Bite from a Copperhead.

Cook Children’s Emergency Department has seen eight snake bites this year and 35 in 2018. As a physician assistant in the ED, Phillip Ray has treated some of those cases, but he never imagined he would one day be on the other end of antivenom.

For most of us, a snake bite of any type would send us directly into a panic. However, when Ray was bitten while working in his lawn, he was hesitant to go to the doctor. He didn’t want to overreact. He wasn’t even sure he’d been bitten because of the heavy gloves he wore outside.

“Initially I knew it wasn’t good, the numbness and tingling. I told my wife that I thought I got bit by a snake but I never saw it because I was trimming the shrubs,” Ray said. “I actually called the Emergency Department at Cook Children’s and talked to one of the physicians I work with, and he advised that I go into my local ER to get some labs.”

While Ray was on the phone with the doctor, his wife went to the front yard where he was bit, found the snake and killed it. Later, poison control confirmed the snake hiding in their shrubs was, in fact, a venomous copperhead.

Ray went to Texas Health Resources for testing and bloodwork, and eventually started Crofab (an anti-venom) in the following hours. He spent the next four days in the hospital, receiving additional doses of antivenom while waiting to regain use of his left hand.

Providers aren’t immune to the fear of the unknown that patients often experience. It was in that same unease that he began to sympathize with his own patients.

“Going from a caregiver and being placed into the role of a patient is something I’m going to take away from this,” Ray said. ”I was really anxious in the waiting room because of the swelling, I even knew the science behind it all, but it was still a source of anxiety for me so for children to be a patient, it’s even harder on them.”

Now fully recovered, Ray’s experience has given him a deeper level of empathy for his patients and has made him a better provider for children with anxiety.

“Seeing the compassion of the other physicians and the nurses is something that is going to make me a better provider going forward,” Ray said. “This experience is going to make me more compassionate. I think whenever a provider is forced into the role of a patient it can create more empathy for their future patients.”

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