SARASOTA, Fla. -- It’s a pain Earl Hjertstedt has never felt before.
"There’s sharp pains, there’s crippling pain, but this is more like a constant boulder like pressure holding down and it’s not going to go away,” he said.
From his Sarasota Memorial hospital bed on the 8th floor, that pain is finally gone but so is the muscle in his lower left leg.
Doctors were forced to remove it to save his life.
“It could’ve been fatal if he was in another country without anti-venom,” said Jeremy Lund, the Toxicology Clinical Pharmacy specialist at Sarasota Memorial hospital.
Lund says it’s one of the worst cases he’s worked on.
Hjerstsedt’s shin-high boots weren’t enough to stop the rattlesnake from injecting him with one of its fangs. Hjerstedt was surveying work in a marshy area near the new Braves stadium in North Port when the rattlesnake attacked him.
"Basically it felt like a slap on my leg. At that point, I kind of did some high stepping because I was kind of confused I didn’t know what actually hit me,” he said.
Almost instantly, Hjertstedt began to feel disoriented and within minutes, his mouth began to close up.
"I didn’t know which way was which. I could feel it in my fingertips, my whole body was tingling and then the pain really struck in on my leg,” he said.
He went to a local hospital before he realized his best chance at survival was to get in the car and drive 40 minutes north to Sarasota Memorial.
Experts say of the 5,000 people who are bitten and injected with venom every year, less than 10 percent of them die. Still, Hjertstedt was worried he may not meet the child his wife Diahanna is expected to give birth to any day now.
"We have a long road ahead of us but we have him,” she said.
Nurses will wheel Earl into the birthing room when his wife goes into labor.
He hopes more construction companies mandate higher boots and gear for their employees when going into marshy and swampy areas.