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New anti-venom saves Phoenix man after rattlesnake bite

A doctor treated 44-year-old Samuel Evans with a newly FDA-approved anti-venom after a rattlesnake bit him on a hiking trail.

PHOENIX — Valley resident Samuel Evans and Doctor Aryn O'Conner never wanted to meet again after their first encounter 14 years ago when Evans was bitten by a rattler. 

"'I can't possibly be that old,' is what I thought. Then we talked and I recalled that we had met," said O'Conner with a smile.

On Sunday, 44-year-old Evans and O'Conner met again after a diamondback rattlesnake bit Evans while he was hiking on a trail on White Tank Mountain in the West Valley. 

"There was a bunch of kids that were up ahead us that saw a snake, so I went up to make sure that they were going to be safe and got a stick to get the snake off the trail, and I ended up getting bit in the process," Evans said.

The snake bit Evans in his left thumb. He says he's lucky he's getting to keep the appendage. 

"Yeah, the snake put so much venom in my body we thought the thumb may have to come off. I'm just glad it's not. I feel really fortunate," Evans said.

When O'Conner realized that Evans was allergic to the usual anti-venom, she quickly switched to the newly FDA-approved anti-venom called Anavip.

O'Conner says the biggest difference is how it works in the bloodstream. 

"It lasts longer in the body, so it can bind up the venom for a longer period of time. And so what it does essentially is it prevents patients from getting delayed bleeding abnormalities. That was the problem with the old product. It had a short duration of action, so there was still venom circulation," O'Conner  said. 

The cost of this newest anti-venom is about half the price of the older one. But at $1,200 a vial, it's still no bargain. 

Evans had 30 vials injected to his body, so he's going to end up with quite a bill. 

But Evans says it's worth the price.

"I don't have health insurance, so it's going to be a big bill. But the care here has been amazing. I've been in great hands," said Evans. 

If all goes well, Evans says he will be out of the hospital by Friday at Banner Medical Center in Phoenix. He hopes to get back to his welding job as soon as possible. 

Evans does have some advice for people.

"Don't play with snakes. If you see one give them their proper room," Evans said.

As for O'Conner, she says Evans is an enjoyable patient, but the next time they meet—she hopes it's under different circumstances.

"In front of his mother and his girlfriend and his father, I asked him to stop picking up snakes, but we'll see," O'Conner said. 

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