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12-year-old girl bitten by rattlesnake released from hospital
Girl bitten by rattlesnake pic 1
Cecillia Gonzalez, 12, was bitten twice by a Timber Rattlesnake in Dawson County on Aug. 12 and was flown to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for treatment. - photo by For the Dawson County News

A Dawsonville middle schooler is currently recovering from a snakebite she received while playing near a creek in Dawson County on Saturday.

According to the girl’s mother, Cecillia Gonzalez, 12, was playing at a friend’s house near Kelly Bridge Road when she slipped down an embankment near a creek. Her foot landed near a tree with a hole in it, and out came a Timber Rattlesnake, which struck Gonzalez twice on her left foot.

Within 55 minutes, Gonzalez had been airlifted to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and given antivenin, according to mom Chrissie Sanders.

Gonzalez had a full-body allergic reaction, and due to the swelling of her tongue and throat, she had to be heavily sedated and a tube put down her throat.

“She had the tube out yesterday,” Sanders said Monday. “So she had it in about 36 hours. She did great without it yesterday and today she’s up and walking.”

Sanders said Gonzalez is learning to walk on crutches since she can’t put any weight on the foot just yet.

On Monday she was still in ICU because swelling and redness continued to spread up her leg. Six more vials of antivenin would be administered to keep the swelling from reaching Gonzalez’s hip joint.

Gonzalez was released from ICU Tuesday night and returned home. 

Sanders said the snake was killed and is sitting in the refrigerator waiting to be mounted.

“[Cecilia] wants to keep it, she’s a hunter and a fisher,” Sanders said.

The three foot-long rattlesnake had four rattles and a button, an impressive yield for such a small girl.

Girl bitten by rattlesnake pic 2
Cecilia Gonzalez was sedated in the ICU at an Atlanta hospital after an allergic reaction. The Dawson County Middle School 7th grader was hospitalized following a snake bite. - photo by For the Dawson County News
According to the Georgia Department of Natural resources, of the 46 snake species native to Georgia, only six are venomous and only one, the copperhead, thrives in suburban areas where the majority of Georgians live.

These venomous snakes are the Copperhead, Pigmy Rattlesnake, Timber Rattlesnake, Cottonmouth, Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake and Eastern Coral Snake.

The most common venomous snakes in Dawson County are the Copperhead, Timber Rattlesnake and Pigmy Rattlesnake, according to the DNR.

The Copperhead can be identified as medium length, ranging from less than three feet to 4.5 feet, with a background color usually light brown or gray. The Copperhead is easily identifiable by a pattern of 10-21 dark brown hourglass or saddle-shaped crossbands, which are wider at the sides of the body and become narrower along the back.

The Timber Rattlesnake can be identified as large and heavy bodied, ranging from three to five feet in length. Background color ranges but a series of brown to black chevron-shaped crossbands (15-34) typically cross the body.

The Pigmy Rattlesnake can be identified as the smallest of the rattlesnakes, with a maximum length of 31 inches. The background color is usually gray or tan with a series of light-edged dark blotches (22 to 45) on the back, as well as from one to three rows of dark spots on the sides.

Visit http://georgiawildlife.com/georgiasnakes for detailed information, fact sheets and brochures on identifying features of Georgia’s venomous snakes.

According to the DNR, out of 10,000 snakebites in the U.S. each year, only 12 to 15 result in death, meaning that lightning kills more people every year than snakes do.

If you believe you have been bitten by a venomous snake, follow these steps provided by the Georgia DNR:

  1. Stay calm. Get the patient to the nearest hospital right away. Call 911 or the Georgia Poison Control Center at 1(800)-222-1222 immediately.
  2. Try to identify the snake by sight only. Look for color, patterns and head shape.
  3. Do not try to kill the snake, it could bite again. It is illegal in Georgia to kill non-venomous snakes.
  4. Keep the patient calm and immobile (preferably lying down).
  5. Keep the affected limb at an even level with the rest of the body.
  6. Do not give the patient food, drink or medication.
  7. Do not use a tourniquet.
  8. Do not cut the wound.
  9. Do not try to suck out the venom.
  10. Do not pack the wound in ice.
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