Woman gets bitten by copperhead at Longhorn Steakhouse restaurant

“I had my fingers under my foot and that’s when I felt something moving,” Rachel Myrick said.

By Cathy Jett
The Free Lance-Star

SPOTSYLVANIA COUNTY, Va. — Rachel Myrick’s first thought as she walked through the entrance to the LongHorn Steakhouse at Southpoint II and felt a sharp pain in her left foot was that she’d been stung by a bee, or possibly a hornet.

She tried to brush it off and keep going, but said that she felt such an excruciating pain as she took the next step that she dropped her cellphone, her wallet and her 13-year-old son Dylan’s hand.

“I had my fingers under my foot and that’s when I felt something moving,” said Myrick, a Fredericksburg Realtor.

She’d been bitten twice on her toes and once on the side of her foot by a roughly 8-inch-long copperhead that had managed to get into the Massaponax restaurant’s foyer. It was still attached to her sandal-shod foot until she shook it loose.

“I freaked out,” said Myrick, who recalled yelling, “I got bit! I got bit!”

Myrick had gone to the restaurant for dinner on Sept. 12 with her son, boyfriend Michael Clem and some of Clem’s friends and family.

Clem said he looked around for a bee when Myrick first started screaming and crying. Then he spotted the copperhead.

“I’ve bred and raised reptiles for 15 years,” said Clem, who works for United Real Estate Premier with Myrick. “There was no question what it was.”

He and Dylan quickly stomped on the snake to kill it, and then Clem called the rescue squad. He said he wouldn’t let anyone touch the snake until the EMTs could confirm that it was, indeed, a copperhead.

“Every second girl would walk by and scream,” he said.

Myrick’s foot began to swell as she and Clem waited outside the restaurant for the ambulance to take her to Mary Washington Hospital. Clem told the rest of the party to go ahead and eat.

The restaurant manager filed a report with the chain and comped their meals, which they appreciated.

When the rescue squad arrived, a black Sharpie was used to circle the spot on the side of Myrick’s foot where she’d been bitten. Antivenin was ordered, but it was to be administered only if the swelling got past her ankle by 2 a.m. Sept. 13.

“They didn’t want to give it to me earlier because the side effects can outweigh the benefits,” she said.

Antivenin contains antibodies created by sheep injected with four types of snake venom, and can cause anaphylaxis in humans, said Dr. Nathan Charlton, medical toxicologist with the Blue Ridge Poison Control Center. This severe allergic reaction can cause the throat or tongue to swell, a drop in blood pressure and nausea. In the worst case, it can be fatal.

Myrick’s swelling was carefully marked in more black ink as it spread past her knee. There was some swelling on her hip and left thigh, as well. She said that the antivenin was delivered intravenously early Sept. 13, a supervised process that took about an hour. She also was given morphine for pain, Benadryl for itching and an antinausea medication.

She was released from the hospital Sunday, but said that it will probably take her at least three months to recover. For now, she’s using crutches to get around because putting any weight on her left foot hurts too much.

“It’s painful just to ride in the car. There’s very little that I can do. I can’t work. I can’t take my kids anywhere. Even phone calls are very difficult because I’m medicated. I can chat, but I can’t negotiate a contract on someone’s behalf,” Myrick said.

“They say that your life can change in a moment,” she added, “and they’re absolutely correct.”

Myrick is one of 19 snake bite victims treated at Mary Washington Hospital, Lee’s Hill Emergency Department and Stafford Hospital so far in 2017, said Mary Washington Healthcare spokeswoman Lisa Henry.

It’s not surprising that her bites were from a copperhead. They’re the most common venomous snake in Virginia, and the most likely to bite. Luckily, their bites are the least toxic, said Charlton.

“If you’re going to be bitten by a venomous snake, that’s the one you want to get bitten by,” he said.

Charlton said that he’s heard of people finding snakes “in all sorts of crazy places,” including kitchens and even a dorm room. He said a snake the size of the one that bit Myrick could wriggle through small spaces because it would be about as big around as a Magic Marker.

“It’s hard to keep them out,” he said. “It’s made me very leery about where I put my hands and feet.”

Clem said that people are disbelieving when he tells them that his girlfriend was bitten by a copperhead at a restaurant.

“Anybody you talk to, they say, ‘What happened? What?’ They think that there’s not even a possibility that this could happen.”

LongHorn spokesman Hunter Robinson said in an email that the restaurant chain’s primary concern is for Myrick’s well-being, and wants to provide any assistance that it can.

“This was a highly unusual incident, and we are working with our facilities team to see how this may have occurred and we are taking steps to prevent it from happening again,” he said.

Clem and Kevin Linton, managing partner of the LongHorn Steakhouse in Southpoint II, both said that they suspect the snake may have been living near a retention pond just down the hill from the restaurant.

Linton said that he contacted Ecolab Pest Elimination and searched the internet to find out what steps he should take to prevent another snake from getting inside the restaurant.

“From what I’ve read on the internet, there’s not a whole lot that I can do—just put an irritant on the ground,” he said. “I’m not confident that it will work, but figured it was better than nothing.”

Copyright 2017 The Free Lance-Star



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