SPRING HILL, Tenn. (WKRN) – A Spring Hill firefighter is continuing to recover after he was bitten by a rattlesnake while hiking with his family Sunday afternoon in Maury County.
Kyle Watson was along the trail at Yanahli Wildlife Management area with his wife and two young children when they happened upon the young timber rattler.
“We’ve been out there several times before,” Watson told WKRN from his hospital bed. “I immediately recognized it as a venomous snake,” he said.
Not wanting other hikers to be injured, Watson cut the snake in half with an oar he found in the river.
When he tried to pick up the snake’s body to show his children, it slid off the oar. Thinking it was dead, Watson goes to grab the severed body and that’s when the other half of the snake, the part with the fangs and venom, which was a short distance away, strikes, biting him in the hand and latching on.
“The head and the remainder of the neck turned and struck my finger as I grabbed the body,” Watson said.
The fireman and father of two said he quickly began to feel the effects of the toxic venom.
“I felt a burning, severe burning pain, shooting up my finger through my hand,” Watson recalled.
Moments after telling his wife he needed to get to the emergency room immediately, Watson fell and hit his head on a rock.
He suffered a sizable gash and was unconscious for an estimated five minutes. His wife immediately called 911 and another family stopped to render aid.
“I had numbness, like when your foot falls asleep, that was all over my body,” Watson said. “I could feel my lips and mouth swelling.”
Soon, members of the Maury County Fire Department, where Watson works as a fireman, arrived to the scene.
The rescue team then carried Watson more than a mile to get him to a waiting ambulance which then took him to a LifeFlight helicopter to Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
“I saw a lot of friendly faces,” he said. “I saw a lot of professionals I respect, so I knew I was in good hands.”
Watson remains hospitalized at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. He said he hopes to go home in a few days.
He said the incident and hospital stay has helped him understand what it is like from a patient’s perspective.
“It gives me a window into what is going on through a patient’s mind,” he said. “I have never been hospitalized. I have never needed an ambulance myself. Once I was in the helicopter, I was a patient like anyone else feeling that anxiousness. I want to thank everyone for all the prayers and the calls and to the emergency services community that has reached out. I feel loved by them.”
Watson also expressed his gratitude to the family who helped him on the path.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency said snakes do hibernate in the winter, but due to the warmer temperatures, it is not uncommon to see snakes.