Snakebites: The only one poisonous snake in Greece, its called an Ohiá and it bit me. It was 1998 and I was on commission photographing for a client. Following my intrepid boss up a dirt track I stepped on this snake by accident. I only new it was there when feeling the pain. Squeezing my toes showed the puncture wounds. Hopping back to the mini-market in San Stephanos (1.5 hours from Corfu Town) I was greeted by a me-lay of Greeks RUNNING around on hearing the news. I’d lived in Greece for some years and seeing Greeks run was unheard off this worried me more than anything.
Greeks never run, especially in the heat they shout across a road in conversation before they’ll exert themselves. With the utmost haste they called the accident Clinic in Ipsos (Mid-journey back to Corfu General Hospital) and translated the news. What followed were a series of events that taxed the nerves of one of the most intrepid Greek travelers.
Arriving in Ipsos clinic I was wheeled past all the moped accidents strait onto the table by my boss. (His driving on the hairpin bends nearly sent us into the olive trees). Heart checked and lungs tested I was injected with a large dose of drugs that set my heart racing artificially high, speeding up my system to counter any poison that may be taking effect. Letter in hand from the clinic I was wheeled back into little Greek car by running nurses at a speed that ‘Lewis Hamilton’ would have been proud of 45 mins later I was in the Corfu General Hospital again the doctors were positively speeding about which freaked me more than all the needles coming in my direction.
Taking blood samples for the hematology dept’ from one arm within minutes of anti venom being injected in the other. A very re-assuring voice removing more blood from my wrist (Both arms were occupied) told me. “You’re lucky! If you arrived after two hours from a good bite we would not have bothered”… this followed by a reassuring grin (Greek humor can be wearied). Staying overnight with a saline drip stuck in another vacant position (Don’t ask) I spent the night in the upstairs ward.
I apparently have the dubious honor of being the first none Greek to have been bitten in 20 years and quite the mini star of the ward. It turned out my snake had exhausted most of its venom during the season and had little left for me however I had to stay in the hospital for another 24 hours because they had no idea how I would react to all the anti-venom coursing through my veins. On the plus side I had free medical treatment that was very good although a bit too fast for my nerves and only a 50-drx (20 euro) charge for the drugs.
Snakebites are rare however this snake is a small cousin of the rattlesnake, brown with a criss cross pattern on its back and will attack if provoked. If you’re bitten, kill the snake for identification if you can (Don’t get bit again) and seek immediate medical attention (Under 2 hours and stay calm). Medical treatment in Greece is free for EEC residents for everyone elce its treatment first ask questions later.