A mother-of-three bitten by a poisonous adder in her garden was forced to research her own wounds on the internet and consult a snake expert after doctors twice failed to recognise the puncture marks as a snake bite.
Janet Coxen had been standing among shrubs in her garden in her flip flops and hadn’t spotted the snake lurking in the shade.
So when the 54-year-old felt a sharp sting on her right calf and noticed a couple of bleeding puncture marks she thought she’d cut herself on a shrub.
But the next day the foster care adviser, from Chandler’s Ford, Hampshire, was suffering with headaches and her leg was so painful she couldn’t put her foot on the ground.
She claimed doctors at Eastleigh Health Centre and Royal Hampshire County Hospital, in Winchester, both failed to spot the marks had come from a snake.
It was after researching her injuries on the internet, Mrs Coxen’s friends became convinced that she had been bitten by an adder.
She then contacted a reptile expert and Mrs Coxen was finally given the right treatment at Southampton General Hospital.
Now furious Mrs Coxen is demanding answers and, following a formal complaint, Winchester and Eastleigh Healthcare NHS Trust has launched an investigation.
‘I was in absolute agony, a searing pain was shooting down my leg and my foot was so swollen I couldn’t put it on the floor,’ said Mrs Coxen.
‘There were two puncture marks on my leg and I remember joking that it looked like I’d been bitten by a vampire – but I never thought they could’ve been from a snake.
‘The first doctor I visited said she thought the bite marks were from a midge and merely joked that it could’ve been a snake.
‘I was given antibiotics but the pain wouldn’t go away so the girls at work had a look on the internet and became convinced I’d been bitten by an adder.
‘I was terrified and rushed straight to A&E but the doctor who saw me categorically said it was not a snake bite because the marks were too far apart.’
Mrs Coxen was sent home from the hospital with some penicillin for the infection that had flared up around the marks.
But her friends were so convinced doctors had got it wrong they took pictures of her leg and emailed them to reptile expert Adie Roberts, from Grange Reptiles in nearby Botley.
Mr Roberts immediately recognised the marks as an adder bite and called a friend at London Zoo to confirm his suspicions.
He urged Mrs Coxen to get straight to Southampton General Hospital.
Mr Roberts even called ahead to let them know a woman with a very serious snake bite was on her way.
Mrs Coxen, who is now on the road to recovery said: ‘I was really scared, I just wanted to get it sorted.’
At the hospital a consultant confirmed Ms Coxen had been bitten by an adder, she was given intravenous antibiotics and kept in over night.
A spokesman for Winchester and Eastleigh Healthcare NHS Trust spokesman said: ‘We are sorry if Mrs Coxen feels the care she received in A&E fell below our normal high standard.
‘We received her complaint this morning and we are now investigating the matter.’
It is thought the adder had ventured in to Ms Coxen’s garden seeking shade in the recent hot weather.
Mr Roberts, from Grange Reptiles, said: ‘I knew immediately from the picture she sent it was definitely an adder bite.
‘There is simply nothing else it could be, and I think it is horrific the doctors didn’t pick up on it.’
Adders usually grow up to 19 inches long but some females have been known to grow up to more than three feet.
The species, which lives for around 15 years, favours heath land and grassy areas but it is rarely seen and avoids humans.
There are thought to be around 100 bites a year across Britain but only 15 fatalities have been recorded since 1876.
Experts warn those who have been bitten by an adder not to attempt first aid themselves but rather to immediately call for medical help.
Jewellery should be removed from affected limb and, if possible, the bite should not be touched.
While few people die through adder bites in this country those who do often suffer heart attacks as the venom causes the blood to clot.