Ken Khteian, on the mend this week from a rattlesnake bite that sent him to the hospital for a three-day stay, cautions his fellow La Cañadans to be watchful for the venomous reptiles.
"Having gone through this, I've learned to be very careful," the 55-year-old Khteian said during an interview in his Palm Drive home Aug. 4, three days after he was bitten on his hand in his yard.
"I think people should be warned that rattlesnakes can be hiding in piles of wood, in shade, near rocks or water."
Khteian's encounter with the snake took place on the night of August 1, at about 8:15, just after he returned home from work. He recalls that as he was bringing in the family's trashcans from the curb he began noticing a loud sound he couldn't identify. The sound continued steadily, and he began to think it might be related to a problem with the garden's sprinkler system.
"In my defense, I wasn't completely stupid," he said. "I was thinking all along it might be a rattlesnake, too." He decided to investigate the noise further, although darkness was falling and he wouldn't be able to see anything clearly. He first approached the area the sound was generating from with a long stick in his hand. He used the stick to poke around behind a garden rock. When the noise continued without so much as a momentary break, Khteian decided it was mostly likely the sound of broken sprinkler. "I decided to go in," he said.
"I put my hand on the rock and felt a tremendous vise-like pinch on the top of my left hand. I never saw him, but I immediately knew what it was," Khteian said. "I ran toward the house, yelling to my wife and telling her to take me to the ER."
Within a few short minutes, Harriet Khteian delivered her husband to the emergency room at Verdugo Hills Hospital, where he required eight ampoules of antivenin at first, with an additional four being given to him the following day. Khteian's left hand and arm, up to his shoulder, became significantly swollen, but are doing much better this week, he reports.
He learned after the event that while he was in the emergency room, firefighters called by neighbors arrived to remove the reptile, which was described as a black diamondback rattler, about three feet in length. "I talked to the fire captain who removed it, and he said it was a mean, nasty old snake," Khteian said.
He said he remains a little jumpy about the whole incident. "When I came home from the hospital, I felt kind of leery," he admitted. "I told my neighbor I thought I heard 'snake voices' and he asked me, 'what are they saying?' I laughed and said, 'They're saying, that's the one that got away.'"
According to guidelines posted on the Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA website, Khteian did the right thing by seeking immediate medical attention at a hospital. With the right treatment, most rattlesnake bite victims recover. To learn more about bite prevention (including the first rule, "Never stick your hands into areas where you can't see") log onto www.phsspca.org and click on the wildlife section.