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Sep 16, 2013 9:08 PM by Samantha Ptashkin

Man bitten by rattlesnake: "It felt like a lightning rod in my leg"

TUCSON - As Anthony Pillich sits in a hospital room at UAMC, there is one thing he wishes he could take back. "I took the shortcut to get to work faster and I shouldn't have done that," Pillich says.

The 23-year-old was walking to work Sunday morning, near I-10 and Cortaro Road. He decided to take the desert route, rather than the main road, when a rattlesnake bit his right calf. "It just felt like a lightning rod in my leg, it kinda took me to my knees for a second," Pillich says.

He was wearing headphones, so at first he thought it was a prick from a cactus, but then he saw the snake, which he describes as four to five feet long. "He was a big boy," Pillich says.

Pillich went to the hospital, where he received 10 vials of antivenom. The average number of vials for a snake bite is 12 to 20. Each vial costs between $2,300 and $2,400.

Pillich is stable, but still in pain. "There is still a stinging sensation in my leg," Pillich says.

According to Dr. Keith Boesen of the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center, so far this month there have been 21 rattlesnake bites across the Tucson Area. In August, there were a total of 41, which is the most bites recorded for the month since 1999. The average number of bites is about 27 per month. "Exactly why we've had so many bites this year compared to last year is difficult to say," Dr. Boesen says.

He points to a good breeding season last year as one possible reason. Regardless, he says victims should not ignore the bite. "Anyone bit by a rattlesnake needs to be treated in a hospital, even if the bite doesn't look that bad," Dr. Boesen says. "There are a lot of complications that can occur from rattlesnake bites."

Another tip to keep in mind: even if a snake is dead, be careful. Reflex strikes can happen several hours after the snake dies.

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