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Mum tells how brave Eli cheated taipan death



Craig Adams - Friday, February 10, 2017

The below article was taken from The Observer Thursday 9 February 2017. Snakebite is a medical emergency and calls for an immediate response. Symptoms can progress quickly in children. A well placed compression bandage ASAP may effectively delay the onset of envenomation and significantly improve the prognosis.


"This isn't where it ends."

Those are the words Brittany Cervantes used when she was told to say goodbye to her two-year-old son who had just fallen into cardiac arrest.

Moments earlier Eli Campbell was bitten three times by one of Australia's most deadly snakes, a taipan.

With an irregular heartbeat and falling into cardiac arrest, Brittany Cervantes was told her son would die.

But, defying doctors beliefs, the Agnes Water boy survived.

Speaking to The Observer in their first interview since the tragedy, Brittany recalled the moments she almost lost her only son.

On the morning of September 26 while checking for eggs in the chicken pen, Eli paused and cried to Brittany "ow, ow, ow".

That's when Brittany saw something that would send shivers down any parent's spine.

"There were these two little blood spots, tiny (on his right leg), and then I saw two more," she recalled.

"I had him sitting on my lap and I could feel him slowly start to go.

"His ears were going purple and within 15 minutes he was vomiting."

Within the next 30 minutes, after paramedics arrived, Eli fell in to cardiac arrest.

"I just remember (my partner) Giles saying 'look now we have to say goodbye' and I just kept saying 'this isn't where it ends, he's going to be an older brother'."

"They stabilised him, I don't know how, and then he was onto the ambulance onto the gurney getting him ready for the flight to Bundaberg."

But Eli's fight was far from over and he was flown to Bundaberg Hospital in a serious condition, and later to Lady Cilento Children's Hospital in Brisbane.

In the days that followed Giles, a former CSIRO scientist, and Brittany, a massage therapist, were told Eli would make a full recovery. But that hope was short-lived.

"In days we were told he was going to make a full recovery to 'your child could be blind'," Brittany said.

"That was devastating ... all your dreams are just shattered into a million pieces."

Five months on, and living in Brisbane to be closer to therapists and specialists, Eli is in the last days of his six-week rehabilitation and doing "remarkably well".

They are in a transition from hospital living to being independent, while still seeking specialists and therapies to help his recovery.

But the near-fatal snake bite will have life-long impacts.

Eli now has epilepsy, which is on anti-seizure medication for, after the taipan attack, and the family is still learning the extent of his brain injury.

With little other information about the impacts of snake venom on children, it's been a learning curve for Brittany, Giles and medical professionals.

Eli has learned how to live again, from swallowing to walking and talking. Prior to the attack Brittany said he excelled with numbers, but now his focus is on learning shapes and colours.

"I just can't believe it that this little boy is sitting in the room with us, it's unreal," Brittany said.

"There's moments where I look at him and think did any of this even happen, did we just imagine it all.

"He has this spark, this shine, he just seems so spot on."

The former Agnes Water woman said they were yet to return to normality.

But she's hopeful that will come with the expected arrival of their second child on March 24.

"It changes the way you look at your kids," Brittany said.

"You don't mind if your house is dirty, it doesn't matter about the silly mundane things.

"It's about your kid and doing the absolute best you can for him."

Each day Eli does exercises to improve his mental and physical strength.

The two-year-old, described as a cheeky toddler, has captured the hearts of people around the world who have donated money to help his recovery.

A GoFundMe page set up by Agnes Water friend and neighbour Blake Hyland has received more than $70,000 in donations.

The money has helped pay for appointments with specialists and will be used for his ongoing therapy.

"This has allowed us to relocate to where we need to be and get access to therapies and equipment, and to be able to really focus on our son," Brittany said.


About the Author - Craig Adams

Craig is a venomous snake expert and former Operations Manager for the Australian Reptile Park. With his wife Jackie, Craig has travelled to remote areas of Australia in search of venomous snakes and spiders for inclusion in the Reptile Park's venom collection program for scientific purposes and for the collection of new data on endangered species. Craig has featured in numerous National Geographic and Discovery Channel programs on the world's most venomous creatures. He worked alongside Steve Irwin as a consultant on his film "Oceans' Deadliest" and continues to work periodically with Steve's best friend John Stainton in an advisory and "to camera" role. Together with Jackie, he has also starred in numerous other television, print media and documentary films and is acknowledged by his peers as the "go to" person in this field.


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