As I walked along the trail back to my car, I noticed a tingling feeling around my lips and eyes. The tips of my fingers and toes were also tingling. Five minutes earlier I had stepped on what I thought was a cactus. This is an odd response to a cactus wound, I thought. As I continued walking, the tingling became more pronounced, and I had the sensation that the world was closing in on me. I began to worry I might not be able to make the remaining half mile down the trail to my car, where my wife was waiting. I stopped several times in the last hundred yards to collect my strength. At last, I made it. "Take me to the hospital emergency room," I mumbled to my wife, as I opened the car door and collapsed into unconsciousness.
My wife, of course, was shocked to see the man she had left only an hour ago in perfect health now slumped in a heap halfway into the car. Fortunately, a young couple was nearby and they called 911 for help. The 911 dispatcher advised the couple to stretch me out on the ground and immediately begin CPR treatment until the paramedics arrived. Because of my age, everyone assumed I had suffered a heart attack, including the paramedics who arrived less than 10 minutes later to find my heart racing and my blood pressure exceedingly low. After they managed to stabilize my life-threatening blood pressure, I revived enough to complain about my big toe. My shoe was removed and the paramedics discovered two puncture wounds on the bottom of my big toe. How these had come to be there was a mystery, but my symptoms were consistent with a snakebite and they radioed ahead to the hospital so they could begin thawing the snake antivenom, a process that takes over an hour. In the meantime, the ambulance raced to the hospital.