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‘They Really Saved My Life,’ Access to Specialized Pediatric Care Made All the Difference for Child Bitten by Venomous Snake

It was a typical Sunday afternoon for Jared and Katie Shell and their 8-year-old son, Brittain. After church, Brittain was at a friend’s house playing outside.


But, after a venomous snake bit Brittain, the family found themselves racing to Atrium Health Navicent Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital where he’d spend several days receiving anti-venom and other lifesaving care.


Suffering from anaphylactic shock in response to the snake’s venom, Brittain was placed on a ventilator and was monitored closely to ensure he didn’t need surgery to relieve increasing swelling from the bite.


Fortunately, antivenom treatments were successful and Brittain was removed from the ventilator.


Child life specialists stepped in to help make the rest of his stay in the hospital as comfortable as possible. They gave him an Atlanta Braves T-shirt to wear instead of a traditional hospital gown and arranged a visit from his friends to help lift his spirits.


“When I put that Braves shirt on, it gave me a little boost of feeling, like, I want to get out of here and go get back out on the baseball field,” Brittain said.


Brittain’s care team also set a goal to have him released before his ninth birthday.


“Everybody genuinely cared about him and wanted him to get home to celebrate his ninth birthday. And so, when they wheeled us out of there, it was a really good feeling,” said Brittain’s mother, Katie Shell. “I’m so grateful that there is a place that has all of the resources and the desire to help, and to save my child’s life.”


The physicians at the hospital credit great teamwork and the hospital’s ability to provide specialized care for saving Brittain’s life. As the only dedicated pediatric facility in central and south Georgia, and one of the most comprehensive in the state, Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital provides care in general pediatrics, pediatric critical care, neonatal intensive care, surgery and outpatient services.


“In this situation, having a pediatric-specific emergency room helped because he was very sick and he required intervention very quickly. In order to have the right intervention for children, you have to have the right tube sizes. You have to have the right respiratory therapist that’s trained to intubate smaller airways. You have to have pediatricians who know the weight-based dosing for these things. Because we are trained to do that, we were able to initiate care a lot quicker,” said Dr. Jacob Kirkpatrick, assistant medical director for the Pediatric Emergency Center at Atrium Health Navicent Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital. “We have high quality teams at all levels of care and so we were able to work together with the same amount of expertise at every level, that ultimately resulted in him having a really good outcome.”


For Brittain, that means life back to normal, once again playing with his friends and tossing baseballs. About his time at the children’s hospital, Brittain said: “They were really nice, and they really saved my life.”


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