When a scare reminds you what matters most

It could have been worse. It could have ended differently. Still, I can’t seem to stop my head from playing the what-if game. I laid awake much of Labor Day night watching Little Miss Sleep, making sure her chest was rising and falling.

 We still aren’t sure what happened. Little Miss and my dad saw a snake in his yard Labor Day afternoon. It was small, Dad could tell it wasn’t a venomous snake (little tip here: there are 22 species of snakes in our state, and only three are venomous), so he showed her how to pick it up and let her. Somehow the snake managed to bite her, but she didn’t drop it. Instead, it bit her again in the finger, and then she dropped it. She was calm about it all, but Dad told her to go wash her hands. She announced she’d been bit when she came in and I didn’t see anything but a blur as she ran past me and went into the bathroom. I was alarmed but assumed the snake was a Garter snake because those are the most common in our area.

What happened next was a blur of chaos. Little Miss came out of the bathroom, I think because I didn’t see her. Next thing I remember my mom said, “Oh!” and then my daughter crumpled to the kitchen floor by the table. Mom said Little Miss had smacked her chin off the table before she crumpled. My mind immediately went to her reacting to the snake bite.

My husband picked her up and held her. I cried, “Call an ambulance!” because I thought she’d been knocked out.

My mom and dad said I should calm down, that she’d hit her head, “let us look at her first, it wasn’t a venomous snake,” but then in the next second she slumped backward, almost out of my husband’s arms and it was him screaming to call the ambulance instead of me.  He told me later her eyes were closed, and she wasn’t responding to him and he’d never felt so helpless.

It was like a crazy nightmare I couldn’t get out of. I literally thought, “this is happening. I’m going to lose my daughter. Tragedy has finally come to our family this time.” She was limp in his arms, and he was running outside. Then she woke for a moment, crying, and said, “I feel weird.”

A call to 911 brought an ambulance in about ten minutes but it felt like a lifetime to us. She was talking but out of it. Lethargic, saying how tired she was. Her finger where the snake bit her had a small spot but it wasn’t swollen. She said it didn’t really hurt.

Her eyes didn’t look right the entire time and the 911 dispatcher told me not to let her stand on her own and to keep the hand that had been bit below heart level.

When the EMTs arrived they examined her, checked her heart rate and oxygen and they were good, but she still didn’t look right and none of us were sure if she’d started to pass out before she hit the table or if the hit on the table had knocked her out. There were no marks on her head, but a small scratch showed up there yesterday.

She was trembling on the gurney so the one EMT suggested we sit her on the bank in front of my parents’ house next to her brother and see if that would help her calm down. I sat next to her but she couldn’t hold herself upright and her head kept rolling a bit. Her eyes looked weird, and she kept saying she was tired. Less than five minutes of sitting there the EMT came out of the ambulance where he was filling out paperwork with my husband and said, “I think we need to take her. Her eyes don’t look right, and I would feel better if we took her.”

I immediately agreed and realized that the entire time I thought he was just sitting in the ambulance helping my husband and the other responder fill out paperwork, he was actually watching Little Miss and using his training to tell she wasn’t fine at all, no matter what she’d tried to tell them earlier.

Little Miss cried because she didn’t want to go. She said he wanted her brother to go with her and I offered to go but my husband held her tight and said he was going in the ambulance with her. I think he was afraid to let her go after the way she’d passed out in his arms earlier.

They quickly took off and my mom told my dad to drive me. Dad was worried about finishing the hamburgers we were grilling and also trying to keep me calm so he was moving a little slow for my liking. I finally left without him, my mind racing through all the scenarios of what could be wrong with Little Miss. I think my brain was moving too fast for me to even cry or flip out.

It’s odd. I didn’t feel the overwhelming panic I often do over simple things. This was a “big thing” where I should have been totally cracking up, complete with the trembling hands and weak knees and light head. Instead, I just kept praying, asking the Holy Spirit to take over, and trying to think of anything but what might be happening at the hospital.

“Look, three maroon vehicles in a row, how strange.”

“Look, this man in front of me refuses to move off the road even while I honk my horn at him to indicate that I am obviously in the middle of an emergency.”

“Do water trucks always drive this slow?”

Once in the ER exam room, seeing my daughter sitting up, crying, but much more alert than she had been only a half an hour earlier, I felt calmer, yet still wanted to scoop her up and run as far away as possible from the building and wake up from this nightmare we were all having.

We never did find evidence the snake even broke the skin. Neither did the doctor. Tests were done to see if she had any signs of venom in her and they came back negative. The hospital kept her for several hours to see if there were any changes and then we finally were able to take her home.

My dad looked up the snake and we are all certain it was a milk snake, which is a harmless snake that doesn’t even have fangs. That probably means she either had a lot of adrenaline going in her making her pass out or that the blackout came after she hit the table, not before. We aren’t sure, even though she says she started to feel funny and began to blackout before she hit the table.

One funny story from the day was when the EMT said to me, “Do you have the snake?”

We said we didn’t, and he looked relieved. “Oh, thank God. I hate snakes and I was so afraid I’d have to see it.”

Wondering if you will hold your child in your arms alive again puts a lot in perspective. Things that once mattered really don’t anymore. Things that seemed important no longer are.

It is similar to how I approached life after my aunt passed away at the very end of 2017. I weeded out what didn’t matter and focused on what did. I won’t be online as much, that’s for sure. There is a lot of life to enjoy beyond a screen and digital device and I plan to enjoy it with her, my son, and my husband.

You might be wondering if I watched Little Miss all night that night while she slept. I absolutely did and didn’t let her out of my sight most of the next day. I probably won’t be letting her out of my sight for a long time. I can’t seem to stop worrying that something else will happen to her, that if I don’t watch her all the time she could fall or pass out again. It’s illogical, I know, but I can’t seem to shake the feelings or thoughts.

I see her crumpling to the floor and falling backward out of my husband’s arms over and over again in my mind. I seem to have slight PTSD from it all (though I do not mean to trivialize true cases of PTSD from war or abusive situations).

You might also wonder if my daughter, the snake-loving almost 7-year-old still likes snakes. Last night she told me, “I love snakes. Being bit by one is not going to stop me. I’m still going to search out every snake ever.”

She has agreed, however, to only look at them, not pick them up.

23 thoughts on “When a scare reminds you what matters most

  1. So very glad to hear Little Miss is ok! Having something happen to our children is one of my worst fears. I am so glad that she is fine and still loves snakes. I dislike them with a passion and have an irrational fear of them that I try hard not to pass onto our children! Instead of screaming every time I see one, I now, for the most part, can calmly walk away. (Mostly!) It doesn’t matter how big or small a trauma may seem, it is still a trauma and you have every right to your feelings and fears. Don’t dismiss or invalidate them. Feel them, process them as much as possible, and hand the rest over to God. Praying for you all!!! God Bless!

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  3. Oh, that must have been terrifying! So glad she’s ok! I’m not surprised that you are traumatized…I would be too. I hope the effects subside soon but I am inspired by the perspective you’ve gained. I too go to my device more often than I should, instead of spending time with the people I love.

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    • Last night my son ran downstairs and into the kitchen. My husband could see him and he started running too. I thought something had happened to my son. Turns out it was because the dog had got off her lead and was now running into the woods. I started bawling because I had panicked and thought that now my son was hurt or in some kind of distress. Something like that really does shake a mama up.

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  4. So thankful she’s okay!!!…I’m sorry you all experienced this. Whether the snake caused the issue or not I hate them all the same.
    Love on your family, they’re one of the most important and best blessings God gives us!!!❤️

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  5. Oh gosh, I know how you felt. Being a mom is not for the faint-hearted, is it? Something kicks in (I like to think it’s God helping us through) when our children get hurt and instead of succumbing to panic, we manage to hold it all together. Been there, done that myself with my kids. I’m sorry you all had this scary occurrence, but I’m so glad Little Miss is all right again. I believe God uses these events to remind us how precious our children are to Him and to us. And I admire Little Miss for not giving up her interest in snakes, although I certainly do not like snakes, no matter if they are harmless or not!

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    • My husband does not like snakes either. She watches a show on YouTube called Snake Discovery and she tries to get her dad to watch with her and he’ll glance but then he says, “no. I’m good. You just go watch it.”


  6. I’m sorry you and your family went through such a scary ordeal. Thank God she’s okay! I had to call an ambulance when my middle daughter was four years old. She fell off the couch and landed on the top of her head. Her body went rigid, her eyes rolled back in her head, and she stopped breathing. My grandma who was visiting called 911. When I couldn’t get my daughter to respond, I broke medical protocol and picked her up. When I did, she started breathing again. The paramedics and hospital never determined what caused her to stop breathing. They said possibly she hit a nerve that cut off her airway and when I picked her up, it released.

    My son almost drowned when he was 3.5 and that was terrifying as well. I’m so thankful God spared my children, as I’m sure you are too.


  7. Oh dear Lisa, I am so thankful that Little Miss is back home and safe now!! What a scare that was! But yes, you are so right. Life is so precious, every breath matters. 💖 That is so similar to what God keeps speaking to me about my husband’s health too. May we both embrace our loved ones in all our moments. Blessings and prayers for you and your family.


  8. Oh mamma, I know this! Three boys; farm life; bites, stings, cuts, being run over by a cow (they are big when you’re 9) and running down the road with an unconscious 3-year-old in my arms towards a lost ambulance… on and on I could go. I forever slept with one ear and one eye open!!! Life is precious and we all need reminders now and then. Hold on tight, because the years race past us. My baby is almost 23 and my heart races every time he races off to fight fires or do his EMT things. God gives Moms special radar and empathy – because we share in creation with Him in a very special way. You are blessed.


    • Oh boy. Those are some scary incidents too. My son has given me a couple scares, but his sister is even more of a daredevil than he ever was. He’s more laid back and thinks about things – she just goes and thinks later it seems. I love this “because we share in creation with Him in a very special way.” Amen. Thank you.

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