SOUTHERN COLORADO — A 10-year-old boy is teaching us all a thing or two, when he stayed calm after being bitten by a rattlesnake while working on his family's farm.
At the beginning of August, Mavrick Mitcheck was tending to sheep when he was bitten while closing a gate. He was alone at the time, but he remained calm, regulating his breath and heart rate. He jumped onto an ATV, and rode to his house to call his father. "I heard it after it bit me... I couldn't actually feel it, it was so fast," said Mavrick.
His parents called 911, and Mavrick was first brought to a local hospital in his hometown of Arapahoe. "We live like 20 miles out in the middle of nowhere. So we had to call our local hospital and tell them we were on the way, so they could get ready for a rattlesnake bite," said Mavrick's mother, Ashley Mitcheck.
Mavrick knew the entire time that if his heart rate sped up, the venom could travel toward his heart quicker. He somehow stayed calm. "If you're going to be out there, you have to be safe and aware of your surroundings. So, almost daily we talk about what you would do if you encounter something like that," said Ashley.
The local hospital made the decision to transfer Mavrick via a Flight for Life to Children's Hospital in Colorado Springs. He was admitted on August 4, and released on August 9. Multiple days were spent in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU).
"My 10-year-old son is my hero, and I will never forget the fact that he literally saved his own life," said Ashley.
Mavrick is now back home, and following up with Dr. Katie Wiggins for occupational therapy sessions using telehealth. He is still working on his thumb and index finger movement.
Dr. Wiggins is a pediatric surgeon at Children's Hospital, who said rattlesnake bites do not happen too often in Colorado, but they do occur from time to time. If you are bitten, she said the first step is to ensure you get to a safe place away from the snake. Then, call 911 if you see any puncture wounds.
She also said staying calm and regulating your heart beat after a snake bite is key. "Mavrick and his family did the exact right thing," said Dr. Wiggins.
Snake bites are not required to be reported to the health department. However, if a person feels intense pain, or has any bleeding or bruising, Dr. Wiggins said those are signs they need to seek help right away.
"If you think about the reason that snakes bite and inject venom, it's so that they can eat things. And so, it would make sense that some chemicals in that venom should affect the nerves of their prey and make it to where the prey can't run away... Some of the chemicals in that venom start digesting the prey so that the snake can eat it. And so, that essentially sort of happens on some levels when you get bit as a person too. So some of those chemicals essentially digest certain layers of the skin and so that's why you get sort of separation of that skin, and then the blisters in between," explained Dr. Wiggins.
She is conducting their occupational therapy sessions online, which the Mitcheck's called a blessing, since they live three hours away. "Saves his family the trip here, the time, the gas money, and him time away from school. I think is a great thing... It's really opened my eyes to a service we can offer many more families both far away and even here in Colorado Springs," said Dr. Wiggins.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife said rattlesnakes can be seen all summer. They typically come out in the spring, and go into hibernation during the fall. "Pretty much any time really on a nice sunny day, you have potential to see a rattlesnake," said Assistant Area Wildlife Manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Cody Wigner.
The first thing to do if you see a rattlesnake is give it space.
Wigner said it's important to not provide rattlesnakes with a hiding spot on your property. "Now what they really like is kind of open, warm, sunny spots to get sun because they're cold-blooded, so they need that sun to warm them up," said Wigner.
"Keep brush piles clear. So any sticks, twigs, brush piles, keep those cleared off your property. Don't have any big large rock features in your yard, just because those small nooks and crannies, they could hide in those. And then, keeping tall weeds and vegetation mowed down to just kind of prevent those kind of hiding spots," said Wigner.
Wigner also added that rattlesnakes are beneficial to the environment, and said there is no reason to kill them if they are seen.