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NE: Rattlesnake drops teenage hunter

June 3, 2010

Rattler strikes young hunter

Hayden Jackson's first turkey hunting trip could have been his last.

The 13-year-old from Kearney and his father, Chris, were tracking a hen in a grassy ravine 10:30 a.m. Saturday in Lincoln County west of Farnam. Suddenly, without a sound, a 3-foot rattlesnake reared out of tall grass and bit Hayden on the left knee.

"It felt like somebody took a baseball bat and hit me in the knee," Hayden said Wednesday from his hospital bed.

"I didn't really know what happened. It just hit me that a snake had bit me, and I looked down and, sure enough, it was right there."

Hayden dropped his shotgun, backed up and fell to the ground, grabbing his knee as the snake recoiled, ready to strike again.

"It hit me pretty fast," Hayden said. "I was really scared because we were .. .pretty far out into the country."

Chris quickly pulled Hayden away from the snake, then shot at the rattler six times, hitting him twice.

"It makes me sound like a lousy shot, but he was moving around and wiggling," Chris Jackson said with a laugh. "He gave us absolutely no warning."

Hayden rolled his pant leg up and saw two fang marks on his left kneecap. Jackson dropped his gun, slung his 80-pound son over his shoulders and began carrying him back to the property owner's farmstead, one-half to three-quarters of a mile away. He knew time was critical.

But the bouncing from the rough terrain was painful for Hayden, so Jackson sat his son under a shade tree while he ran for help.

"That was hard, that was really hard," Jackson said softly.

Fifteen minutes later, he returned. As they started on their way to Gothenburg Memorial Hospital, Hayden began vomiting and going in and out of consciousness.

By the time Hayden reached the hospital, he was losing his eyesight.

"He was seeing white and gold. He was really, really sick. He had been throwing up the whole way," Jackson said. "It was a pretty scary ride."

At the hospital, Hayden was given a dose of antivenin. Kayleen Dudley, chief nursing officer, said that because the hospital is near several recreational areas, it has a supply of the treatment on hand. Cozad, Lexington and Kearney hospitals also keep supplies of anti-venom.

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