Iraqi girl gets help from Miami-Dade Fire Rescue’s Antivenom Unit
(MIAMI HERALD) Already having helped with a black widow bite in South Miami-Dade and a coral snake bite in New Smyrna Beach, Capt. Ernie Jillson was simply trying to manage the lawn in front of his Davie home Saturday when a third call came in — from Iraq.
A 3-year-old Iraqi girl had shown up at a U.S. military base near Baghdad in dire condition after suffering a bite on her hand from a saw-scaled viper.
Eight hours had passed since the bite. Her blood had thinned and was beginning to pool in her thorax and abdominal cavities. Her arm had swollen to the shoulder.
She was well on her way to drowning in her own fluids, so doctors at the base called Miami-Dade Fire Rescue’s Antivenom Unit for an expert opinion.
Jillson, the head of the unit and a military reservist who has served previously in Iraq, took the call.
“Duty calls,” he said Saturday evening, about five hours after a former colleague stationed at the base dialed the Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue dispatch center.
Jillson consulted with doctors and told them that because their patient was a small girl, maybe 50 pounds maximum, they needed to administer a higher dosage of the horse-blood based antivenom over a longer-than-usual period of time to avoid complications.
He warned them of the possibility of anaphylactic shock — an adverse reaction to the antivenom — and told them how to evaluate the girl’s progress.
The last Jillson had heard, the girl remained in critical condition, but she showed improvement.
Jillson said saw-scaled vipers, sand-colored snakes known to feed on everything from scorpions to small mammals and other snakes, are fairly common in the Middle East. Though they only grow to about two feet in length, they are known to be aggressive when encroached upon, he said.
“It’s a very nasty snake,” Jillson said.
According to Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue, bites from the snake result in more deaths than from any other species.
Jillson said Saturday’s call was the second in the last several months from Iraq. Sometimes the military calls the dispatch center and other times they communicate through the Internet, he said.
“It is kind of unique that they’re calling me all the way from Iraq,” he said. “We’re not only here to outreach to our own citizens but to citizens across the whole world.”