The 61-year-old Metro Vancouver man was bitten by a poisonous snake earlier this week while walking along a beach at night, and quickly developed symptoms ranging from the painful swelling of his leg to kidney failure.
The man went to a medical clinic in Costa Rica, but a language barrier prevented him from getting anymore than minimal help, so he flew home.
Dr. Roy Purssell, the director of the B.C. Drug and Poison Information Centre, said the snake venom also causes major problems with blood clotting.
"So the patient was having bleeding from various areas, and his tears actually had turned to blood," he said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
Purssell said a medical team from his centre and Vancouver General Hospital managed to identify the bothrops snake as the culprit in the attack, based on all of the symptoms the man suffered, including damage to his kidneys, which required dialysis.
He said the team then determined the closest antidote was at a zoo in Seattle, Wash., and made arrangements to have it picked it up an air ambulance helicopter.
"We had sorted out which snake it likely was and the location of the anti-venom by about noon that day and the patient was actually given the anti-venom by just after six o'clock, so we were actually pretty impressed by (the speed of the response)," he said.
He said once the drug was administered the patient began to improve almost immediately.
"The abnormalities and blood clotting were starting to resolve within minutes. They were dramatically better within a couple of hours, and almost back to normal within a few hours after that," Purssell said.
Purssell said the man didn't even know he had been bitten by a snake so the medical team had its work cut out for it in making the diagnosis.
"We deduced what had occurred, figured out which snake it had to be, got the correct anti-venom and it was just gratifying to see how quickly he'd responded to it," he said.
The man is now in stable condition in Vancouver General Hospital, and Purssell said he may suffer some permanent kidney damage from his ordeal.
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