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My six year old was bitten by a rattlesnake this sumer.  Yes, from an actually deadly snake, that makes it’s own drum roll before digging actual fangs into your skin.  Just like in the Westerns. Maybe this shouldn’t have sounded so strange to me when the call came because we live in the west – in Los Angeles.  And with our drought they say more rattlers are coming down the mountains and into the foothills. They’re making camp in our local parks which is where one struck my daughter.

I only answered the phone because I thought it was a colorist calling me back about my hair.  Priorities.  Instead, at 3:20 on a Monday afternoon a young woman I didn’t know was talking fast.  Her nervousness was discernible despite her even tone.  I have three children who all got on the bus for summer camp that morning. The only question in my mind as the big words were flying by – incident – poisonous – ambulance – hospital – was which one she would name.

Coco.  The daughter I named after the island I was visiting when we discovered our pregnancy.  Only five pounds at birth Coco.  Who had a cold and a fever all weekend.  Who I invited to stay home with me that day and rest.  Coco who refused.  Who very much wanted to be at camp that day.

Only a moment later I am driving in my car very fast.  While simultaneously talking to my pediatrician’s office (bluetooth get over it) to ask what I need to know when I get in the ER? But after explaining Coco had been bitten by a rattlesnake I can’t talk.  I find myself heaving for breaths between sobs.  This is fine.  From my current location on the freeway I only have 3 miles to go to get to the hospital and this is a good time to cry.  To feel my own feelings and get them done quickly so I can get inside that ER and put on a brave face for my still conscious kid.  WHO WAS BITTEN BY A RATTLESNAKE.

Between the unnatural pauses of my words where I am gasping for air the nurse at the pediatrician’s office tells me to pull over.  Um, I have a job to do here lady.  Even if I can’t breath.  She tells me she will not give me any information until I pull over and take five breaths.  That I can not help my daughter if I die in the car while driving to her.

I still beat the ambulance to the hospital despite pulling over.

The first fifteen minutes in the ER with 20 medical personal moving quickly around my pig-tailed kindergartener – who was not screaming in pain but weeping solemnly in fear for her life and whispering in my ear to please not let go of her – was the worst it ever got.

I am so grateful to be old enough to know to never Google anything when you are in a crisis. Certainly not in a pediatric ICU.  I knew it was rare to be bitten.  I was aware the bite could be fatal and that the faster the anti-venom came the less chance there was of losing a limb. I didn’t need to know any more.  Because we had none of that.

By Friday Coco had a clean bill of health. Four days later a full and complete recovery.  My beautiful goddess warrior daughter who was everything I could have ever hoped for in a girl also seemed to be venom-proof.  When my husband brought Coco back to camp on Friday afternoon – of the same week – to giant applause from her fellow six-year olds, he openly wept in the grass along with them and hearing this I have never stopped.

My first tears since the car ride over to the hospital have come and they are unending.  I’m not crying for her, I’m not even crying for my trial that took place as a witness to hers. But perhaps as penance for not being punished more by it all.

Why NOT is the question I can’t answer in my head.  Was our survival and recovery just luck?  God’s will?  Everything in the universe lining up just right?  Why even bother then in the first place universe, God or luck?  I don’t really want to know the answer to why not. I think I am weeping that I get to ask it at all.

This is survivor’s guilt, and knowing it doesn’t make it any less palpable.  My daughter feels empowered, loved, vindicated and held.  No fear is present.  But I am racked with it.  Yes of snakes and camp but also her ever leaving the house again but more so of too much luck.  I am bereft at the mercy of… so much mercy.

  1. Nicole Baugh on Wednesday 19, 2015

    That was scary. When I was about maybe 3 or 4 years old, I was in the car with my parents driving somewhere. We had our windows down and then this hornet (or wasp) flew in and stung me on the side of my neck. I must’ve been terrified. They took me to the hospital. And then later on, I was feeling better.

  2. Rika Ito on Wednesday 19, 2015

    As an Asian I would say: there is no such thing as luck. Every occurrence is a life lesson. Your ancestors’ virtues cumulate into your personal life. Be grateful to them whenever possible, this influences your fate and destiny. Things happen if and when they are meant to happen, so you take them for granted (= no judgement), but you are responsible for the conclusions.

    So, probably this bite was good for something, you can happily watch what your daughter makes of it in near or distant future. Maybe she turns into an ophiologist, a doctor, or a snake charmer. It’s pretty obvious that she turns out to be a strong and confident person, even more than before. All the best to you and your family.

  3. ken on Wednesday 19, 2015

    Must have been a dry bite. There is no way she would have been back at camp four days later otherwise.