Tourist survives rattlesnake bite in Arizona

Posted at 10:01 PM, Mar 07, 2016

A spring training visitor from California is lucky to be alive after a run-in with a rattlesnake.

Ralph Shelton spoke about the ordeal to reporters from his hospital bed on Monday. He said the bite happened around 9:30 p.m. local time Sunday in El Mirage.

Shelton said he was stepping out of his RV for some fresh air when he heard a noise.

"So when I heard that weird noise underneath the trailer, I was like, ‘oh, now what's the matter?’” Shelton said.

He said it was dark when he went to inspect where the strange noise was coming from.

“I kind of just stuck my hand in there to get a better view and ‘bam!’” he said. That’s when two fangs came out of the shadows and plunged into Ralph’s forearm, and then the snake’s deadly venom went to work right away.

“His blood pressure dropped down to almost nothing. And when it dropped down to almost nothing, there was question as to whether some bystanders actually started CPR on him,” Banner University Medical Center Dr. Frank LoVecchio said.

Shelton passed out and hit his head on the ground. His head wound was later treated with staples.

Dr. LoVecchio said a combination of Shelton’s heart medication and his age put him in serious limbo, and that he was possibly minutes away from death.

"Once in a while you hear about a death in Arizona, maybe once every 5 or 10 years, from a rattlesnake,” Dr. LoVecchio said. “I would say this about the close as we've come in 10 to 15 years.”

Doctors said that as weather warms and humidity levels rise, so do the number of reported snake bites in the Valley.

Banner University Medical Center reports, on average, 2 to 3 patients per month during the winter months. An average of 15 people are treated at that same hospital during the summer.

Shelton wants his run-in be a lesson and hopes it raises awareness of the deadly dangers that the desert poses.

He has swelling in his arm and said he is still feeling the effects of the venom, but should fully recover in about a month.

The snake was later discovered and killed.