Five-year-old in hospital after snakebite

TAMPA - Five-year-old Amy Velez had a long night.  Her parents' night was even longer.

"We hear my youngest daughter screaming, I thought she fall or something and she said something bit her on her foot," said Edward Velez.

Edward and Astrid Velez immediately feared the worst.

"We were aware that there were rattlesnakes in the neighbor's yard a few days ago, and they killed two of them," said Astrid Velez.

The Velezes took a picture of one of those snakes.  They live on five acres in Wimauma and worry about the tall grass. They don't let their three kids wander too far.

But Amy was just a couple feet from the door when the snake slithered to her.

"She was so scared and said 'Mommy, I am hurt.'  So, I tried to grab her and tried to calm her down," said Astrid Velez.

The Velez family rushed their daughter to a fire station and then, after judging the bite, they knew she needed to be rushed to Tampa General Hospital, a facility in the bay area that could handle the bite.

"By the time the helicopter came to the fire station, it was like 15 minutes. It had completely swollen her foot," said Astrid Velez.

Doctors were able to give Amy the proper anti-venom and stop the poison. Dr. Mike McFarland, who works in the ER, says it's imperative to know what to do.

"It's pretty constant that we see one or two bites a month from a venomous snake," said Dr. McFarland.

Officials with Florida Fish and Wildlife said the wet weather we've seen plus vacant foreclosed homes in disrepair both contribute to the snake problem.

In Amy's case, her parents' quick thinking likely saved her life. Astrid Velez is a certified medical assistant. Dr. McFarland shared what you need to know.

"Elevating the arm to the level of the heart, we do not recommend anyone try to use a tourniquet or try and suck the venom out. We certainly do not recommend that," said Dr. McFarland.

Sunday night, when Amy was bitten, the family was celebrating their son's birthday.

Amy is on the way to healing and they now can breathe easier knowing they will be with their daughter next month when she turns six. But this experience is one they will carry with them forever.

"Just seeing her grow through that I don't want that even for my worst enemy," said Astrid Velez.

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