Redback bite leaves woman in hospital

By Riverine Herald

TAMMY Ritchie might not have been going to die, but for some time it certainly felt that way.

But she did realise how bad things were when doctors at Echuca hospital moved her into the resuscitation bay, with adrenalin injections on standby, while they gave he a dose of anti-venom for the redback bite she had suffered.

It happened just before Christmas and left the young mother in hospital on two occasions as she struggled to work out what was wrong with her.

“It was the Wednesday before Christmas and my husband James had just gone to work and our 12-month-old son Harry had just gone down for the night,” Tammy said.

“I was just tidying the kitchen and putting things into the dishwasher when I started to get a pain in my leg,” she said.

“I didn’t know how but thought I must have pulled a muscle, or strained it, so I hopped in the spa thinking the warm water and water jets would help.”

But by the time she had showered and gone to bed the pain was getting worse, she was going hot and cold and feeling sick.

Even though it was a 30C night she had he electric blanket on.

“I actually looked all over my leg but couldn’t see anything but I kept getting worse and then started vomiting,” Tammy said.

“I even tried the spa again at 5.30am but nothing was helping and when James got home he insisted we go straight to the hospital,” she said.

“They put me on an IV and hit me with two lots of morphine, which took the edge of the pain. They also did blood tests and sent me home with some Endone.”

But by that night, with her condition worsening after the morphine wore off and the pills were doing nothing to help, she was back in the hospital.

That’s when she was told the tests had found spider venom in her blood.

“They were reluctant to try the anti-venom as apparently many people have violent reactions to it but by then I was ready to try anything,” Tammy added.

“So we went into the resus room and my mum Jenny was there helping me but when she saw all the needles she took off,” she laughed.

“But once the drip with the anti-venom was working the change was amazing and within an hour I was so much better – they also had magnesium in the drip to help my muscles relax.”

By then doctors had identified a small rash on the back of her leg as the bite site; and drew a line around it to see if it was spreading – and it was.

While the hospital could not determine the spider that had bitten her, Tammy said she and James check the outdoor setting they were using the night it all started.

“Under the seat I was in, one the side my leg got bitten, there was a web and big redback right there, and I had been putting my leg back under the seat at times,” Tammy said.

“I’m just so grateful it didn’t get Harry.”

But even with the anti-venom Tammy has been plagued with ongoing issues, which doctors told her might last as long as four weeks.

That has included painfully swollen lymph nodes, lethargy, trouble sleeping, flu-like symptoms, feeling nasally – even all the hairs on your body tend to stand straight up.

“The doctors said these were classic symptoms and I am almost over it now.

“And the doctors and nurses at the hospital were fantastic, they did such a great job and everything is almost back to normal – mum is even game to come near me again.

“But I wanted people to realise how bad this can go and they should check all the places redbacks are likely to hide in and around your home.”