Man bit by rattlesnake while protecting family dog

Posted at 6:47 PM, Jun 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-21 09:21:53-04

A Phoenix man trying to protect his dog ended up with a trip to the hospital after suffering a rattlesnake bite, and doctors are warning more are expected to come out as the monsoon season kicks in.

Michael Sarburgh was out cleaning his pool Monday morning when he heard a rattle coming from his pool. His 2-and-a-half year-old Airdale Terrier, Maximilian, took a closer look. He got close to the pool pump when Seaburgh stepped in.

“I grabbed him by the collar in one hand and then I put my hand on the snout face area because I figured if the snake is gonna snap out it’s gonna hit me instead of him and it did," he said. "It worked, it got me." 

But Seaburgh says he didn’t panic. He went inside, put his dog in his kennel and headed to an Urgent Care. On his way he remembered that he left the water running and drove back home to turn it off. It was when he was leaving to get medical attention that he noticed his hand began to swell. 

“It really wasn’t painful, it was aggravating," he said. "Tender to touch." 

Doctors at Banner University Medical Center in Phoenix marked up and down his arm to monitor the progression of the swelling and gave him about six vials of anti-venom. 

But, if he had to do it again to protect his dog, Seaburgh said, he would. 

“He’s our baby boy, our animals are a part of your family,” he said. 

Already this year 39 calls about rattlesnake bites have come in to the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center from across Maricopa County and so far this month there have been 7 reports of snake bites. 

Dr. Frank Levecchio warns this is only the beginning of the season and snakes will come out more in the coming months because the monsoon is kicking in. He said snakes mostly come out when the temperatures and humidity are high. But, there’s another factor, and it has to deal with us. 

“With all those artificial reservoirs, snakes come out a little bit earlier and hang around a little bit longer,” Dr. Levecchio said. 

If you do get bitten by a snake Dr. Levecchio said you should immediately call 911 or the poison center and do not attempt to catch the snake. He also said you should not apply ice, heat, suck on the wound or do anything to do.  His best advice is to keep the affected area immobilized and call a doctor. 

Even if there isn’t any swelling the venom can cause blood abnormalities. In it’s prey, a snake's venom will break down the muscle and digest the animal so it’s easier for the snake to digest. While snake venom isn’t strong enough to do that to a human it can have drastic effects.

On average it will take a person about one month to recover from a snake bite and most snake bites happen to the upper and lower extremities. 

As for Seaburgh he’s doing well. He’ll be released from the hospital Tuesday evening but will have to return to the hospital in a week to get blood work done. Dr. Levecchio says it’s rare but sometimes snake venom can lead to blood abnormalities and can even mess up the way your blood clots. So it’s best to check and make sure everything is OK. 

His best advice is, if you see a snake go the other direction. A trip to the hospital doesn’t run cheap. One vial of snake venom costs about $2,000 and a patient will receive on average 10-12 vials. That combined with a two night stay in the hospital and you could be looking at a $300,000 hospital bill. 

So stay away from snakes. 

“Not only is it bad for your health, but bad for your wallet,” he said.