You never really know how your going to react in a crises until you are in a crises. It’s why CPR/First Aid classes are designed the way they are so hopefully when you are faced with a life and death situation you become like Ray Allen shooting free throws, it’s all muscle memory. In the summer of 2003 Bronwyn and I were leading backpacking trips for the entire summer for Camp Lake Stephens in Oxford, MS. A former counselor from the camp and good friend was working as a youth director for a church and wanted to take a group of his teens on a trip. We were going to the Sipsey, Wilderness in northwest Alabama. It’s a pretty remote area that is at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains. It’s actually a trip down into a huge sunken land mass pushed down by weight and time. It’s a beautiful place full of giant trees and water falls with an ecosystem all it’s own. Lyle was and is an avid outdoors man, he knows his way around a campfire and how to pack for a trip like this. His youth group, not so much. But we had taken youth and teens on trips before that may not have known exactly what they were getting into before so we could make this work, plus they had their youth leader with them. It was going to be fine.
We cut the trips into several days, the first one involves a lot of hiking and getting deep into the woods and camping next to the biggest tree in Alabama and a beautiful waterfall. The second day was a much shorter hike and we camped next to a river with some cool rapids and a nice place to swim. As we were walking down to the river it happened. Lyle got bit on his toe by a rattle snake, a little baby rattle snake. I was standing next to him when it happened and totally went into muscle memory. I ran back to our campsite, which wasn’t super close and actually took a short cut up and through an area called the eye of the needle. I grabbed the snake bite kit and sprinted back, all the while remaining calm and I began to administer first aid. Now if you have ever been in this situation you may already know that there isn’t really much you can do, it’s all just to make sure the patient remains calm because you are doing something. Ultimately I knew we would need to hike out and I would need to drive him the roughly 20 miles to the hospital. Now Lyle was awesome, I don’t think he ever got even the slightest bit panicky and as we were hiking out my only real job was to make him walk slow to keep his heart rate down so the venom wouldn’t spread. We walked, and talked and acted like he hadn’t just been bit by a snake that although improbable could kill him. There was literally poison in his body. We got to the van and I began to drive to the hospital, on the way there he looked at me and said, “I’ve always heard it’s worse to get bit by a baby rattler than a full grown one”. Something I had in the back of my head but would have never said. I just looked at him and shrugged like I had no idea and had never heard that in my life.
So we get to the hospital and by this time his leg is turning a sickly green and black. I ran in and told them what was happening, grabbed a wheel chair and went to bring him in. Now I use the word Hospital very lightly when I refer to this place. I mean it was written on the sign outside but it was not exactly The Med. They took him back and I we got him settled and I knew had to get back to my wife and his very non-outdoorsy youth group who had no idea what was happening and I couldn’t contact because it was 2003 and even now cell phones don’t work great in Sipsey. Plus it was getting dark and although I knew the trails pretty well anyone who has ever night hiked knows things looks very different when the sun goes down. I said my good bye and walked out just as the doctor opened a very big book and was running his finger down the pages and reading about snake bites. I looked at Lyle and assured him he would be just fine.
I hiked back in to where our group was with two flashlights and a walkie-talkie hoping when I got close enough they would either hear or see me. I’ve never seen too many rattle snakes in Sipsey but that night on the way to the campsite I saw three, including one that struck at me. I got back, assured everyone Lyle would fine and crashed. The next morning I got up and hiked back out to the van and drove a little until I could get enough reception to call and check on Lyle, they had transferred him to Birmingham to another hospital but said he was responding well to treatment and should be fine. He was and a few years later even started the Appalachian Trail with us where I gave him the very cool trail name “Snake Bite”.
You never know how your going to be in a life or death situation until your in one, all you can do is prepare and hope your ready when the time comes. What are you doing today to prepare yourself for the trouble that life may throw at you? I’m just happy that when I face trouble I know that I serve a God who says that “when I pass through the water and fire He will be with me”. Is:43. I’ll say again the God loves you and has a plan for your life. I know he loves me and has a plan for us, in Kenya.