It was a beautiful day that started with a morning vinyasa warm up followed by a slackline class and a massive brunch. Our bellies were full and content and we were excited to be back outdoors surrounded by nature as we made our way up the 5 minute approach to the climb site in the scenic Poconos of PA. Sam, Chris and I were taking students to different climbs that were set up with top ropes thanks to the generosity of Chris's husband Michael who even set up a new 5.10 (more advanced climb) for our students with extensive climbing experience.
Sam was excited to be the guinea pig and test climb the new 5.10 which was further down from the two areas where Chris and I were belaying students. Sam went with Michael about 10 steps in the direction of the climb.
Sam:Mike walked past me as I grabbed my climbing shoes and followed closely behind him I took about 5 steps and on the 6th step my right leg stepped over some ferns and as my left leg swept through them I felt a very sharp intense pain like never before. It was not more intense pain but just a different pain. I thought maybe a bee or a wasp but as I looked down I saw blood streaming down my ankle. I tool two more steps was it a thorn, looking down the blood was now running out of two holes Snake.
Mike casually walked back and said "not to alarm anyone but there is a snake over here, keep the dog on the leash" (our retreats are dog friendly!).
Surprisingly none of the students seemed to mind as they contnued to climb as Sam and Michael went back to try and move the snake off the path with a long branch. Sam was videotaping and taking pictures and I thought it was just to add to some YogaSlackers "extreme climbing adventure" footage. Little did I know at the time that Sam was recording evidence.
After about 10 minutes the guys managed to convince the snake to mosey on down the hill far away from the students and the trail path and then Sam came back by where I was belaying, talking calmly on his phone. I wasn't sure who he needed to call or why and was about to ask him to help belay when he calmly stood up and said to me "I'm sorry, I've got to go to the hospital" and Michael added "Sam got bit by the snake. It's a baby copperhead".
I didn't know where to begin with the questions but to sum things up they explained that Sam felt a scratch on his ankle and thought it was a thorn or branch. Upon closer examination he saw two punctures side by side that were bleeding. He realized it was a snake bite and then decided he had to get documentation to show to anyone who might question the type of snake just in case it was poisonous (this proved very useful as the doctors questioned him extensively, insisting that poisonous snake bites are very rare in the area and surely he must be confused about what bit him). Finding out that it was a copperhead and very poinsonous (copperheads are one of two types of poisonous snakes on the east coast). The severity of the situation was enhanced by the knowledge that baby snakes actually emit more venom since they don't know how to regulate it, a surprising fact but not a great circumstance for Sam.
Now the students were concerned- not about the snake but about Sam's health as time was of the essence and it had already been about a half hour since he was bit with the hospital over an hour away. Wrapping his leg with a scarf to slow the venom from flowing up into his heart Michael and Sam unloaded their climbing gear and hurried for the car to take Sam to the hospital. the whole time Sam remained amazingly calm and even apologetic that he couldn't help belay.
Sam spent the next 24 hours going from one hospital where he received 6 doses of anti-venom (at a hefty price of $750 a dose) to being transferred by ambulance to a second hospital in case they needed to operate on his leg as venom has the potential to rapidly eat away at muscle tissue in addition to causing cardiac arrest.
No one knew exactly what to say to Sam about the prognosis as his leg started to swell up. Apparently there had been only 2 incidences of snake bites in the area in the past 3 years and Sams' was one of them. He did the best thing you can do in the situation and remained calm- a practical application of yoga and meditation in motion as freaking out could actually accelerate the flow of the venom to the heart and instigate a heart attack.
After 6 doses of anti venom, a night in the hospital and many many tests and tiresome paper work, Sam was released with two completely different looking legs and a prognosis that he would be ok. As testament to this fact he got on a slackline within several minutes of returning back to Chris and Michael's home and we are pleased to report that he can still slackline and hoop, although too much standing on the leg causes it to swell even more.
Sam is still extremely calm, even in light of dealing with the aftermath of pain, swelling and fatigue, not to mention exuberant hospital bills. We did discover that the EKG hospital pads placed on his chest to measure his heart beat make for wonderful snaps to attach a prAna button down shirt to should you need extra entertainment or buttons (pictured below). When we were all back at the house and processing how great the rest of the retreat went Sam said "well at least it was me that got bit instead of one of the students" reminding us how humble he really is.
We are optimistic that he will make a full recovery and we hope to find some good YogaSlackers karma to help pay the hospital bills. In the mean time we are grateful for the reminder that kundalini, the serpent representation of energy in the yoga practice, rises and even bites sometimes when you least expect it and our yoga becomes the practice of finding balance in the moment.
YogaSlackers...slacking for a better world.
NOTES from SAM
This year has been especially challenging Financially with the car breaking down, my bike & 80% of my Adventure Racing equipment being stolen by Cathay Pacific and the snake bite. Emotionally with the end of a relationship with someone who truly helped me change, the shifting of my relationship with my best friend Jason as he met his amazing fiancée Chelsey whom I love dearly, and the multiple failed attempts using my new communication skills.
I am looking forward to my Birthday on the 30th of May and the new beginnings. Don't get me wrong 28 has yield many more positive experiences then not, Summiting Rainer Safely, Teaching on my own, teaching with diverse and talented co-teachers, exploring new ways to express inner turmoil... talking :), not to mention an all expense paid trip to Malaysia to race in an adventure race with guaranteed prize money. (Blog coming soon)
Twenty Nine will bring exciting changes to our current group of esoteric friends as we start to make our new slackline the E-line more available, offer Teacher Trainings, and I am personally looking forward to my next Road trip with Dan as we head to the Teva Mtn games and immediately after that I am leaving with amazing performer/artist/person Adelaide on a month long trip fusing multiple forms of play, performance and adventure!
I had insurance but the deductible is still more then I typically spend/make in 4 months $2500. I purchased the insurance knowing that my lifestyle puts me in multiple and usually compounding "exciting situations". But as most systems we have in this country the insurance actually makes me ineligible for all the social programs I have applied for thus far.
If you are interested in supporting Sam's recovery fund, donations are being graciously accepted through paypal to email@example.com (Mailing address box 159, Crystal, ND 58222)
I have all ready had a few donations with in hours of Adi's blog and newsletter going out as well as countless doses of healing energy. So far $270 has been donated.
2nd Retreat Attendees