Jude Mitchell, who was bitten by a puff adder in the Drakensberg, said he is recovering well after being discharged from hospital.
Jude Mitchell, who was bitten by a puff adder in the Drakensberg, said he is recovering well after being discharged from hospital.

KZN teen recovering after being bitten by puff adder in Drakensberg

By Lorna Charles Time of article published Apr 6, 2021

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DURBAN - AN EMDLOTI teen, who was bitten by a puff adder during a family hike in the Drakensberg on Friday, says his encounter with the venomous snake had not dampened his love for nature and going on adventure trials.

Jude Mitchell, 15, was discharged from hospital on Sunday.

“I’d say I’m feeling quite relieved and happy to be out of hospital. I don’t feel too much pain, but it spikes when or after I move,” he said from his home yesterday.

Jude was with family at a holiday resort in the Drakensberg for the Easter long weekend when he was bitten.

His father, Sean, said that the night before the incident, the family were chatting about the dangers of snake bites.

“Jude pulled out a snake book and we read up on the venomous snakes that may be encountered. There were four species, with puff adder being the worst,” Sean said.

On Friday, the family set out on a hike to look at some San art they had seen the previous year, and Jude led the way on the 6km hike.

“As I was running up the hill, I felt a sharp pain and thought it was a thorn, but looked down and saw the puff adder was in the middle of the path. I immediately ran around the path to get to my family, and told my uncle to wrap his shirt around my knee

and apply pressure,” Jude said.

Sean said his family snapped into action to get Jude the medical attention he needed.

“We were over 5km from the nearest road, yet my brothers, Warner and Gregg, took turns relaying Jude by piggyback, running flat out the whole distance. Somehow I didn’t tire. Warner and Gregg running like that carrying 50kg Jude was incredible,” Sean said.

He said once they were able to call for paramedics, they were assisted by staff from the resort they were staying at, and transported on a bakkie to meet the ambulance on the road to Underberg.

He said they were rushed to Dr Alan Howard, who wrote the book on snake-bite treatment that Jude had been reading the night before.

He said Howard stabilised Jude, but didn’t have anti-venom and recommended they go to Hilton Hospital.

Sean said the hospital was wonderful, with immediate treatment on arrival. He said he was grateful to all those involved in the emergency rescue operation, which was “extremely calm and well handled”.

Jude said it was a fortunate coincidence that he was reading a book on snakes, and especially the puff adder, the night before he was bitten.

“It was a shocking experience! After reading the books, I’d imagined it but never imagined myself being bitten. I just wanted to be prepared for anything on the trail. The most painful part was the drive to Pietermaritzburg, but I tried to remain calm, tell jokes and sing,” he said.

Kate Bordmann, manager at Underberg Emergency Medical Services, the paramedics who helped Jude, said they were grateful to all those who assisted with the medical emergency.

According to the African Snakebite Institute, puff adder venom is potently cytotoxic, causing severe pain, swelling and blistering, and polyvalent antivenom should be administered as soon as possible.


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