Young boy reunited with chopper crew five years after Taipan bite

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The youngest Australian known to survive a taipan snake bite has been reunited with the chopper crew that brought him back to life five years on.

Eli Campbell, seven, who came terrifyingly close to death as a two-year-old in 2016, visited the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue base in Bundaberg, Queensland on Tuesday morning in an emotional reunion for both the aircrew who came to his rescue and for Eli’s mother, Brittany Cervantes.

‘I’m trying not to cry,’ Ms Cervantes said.

‘I am so grateful. We’re lucky to have people who do this for a living.’

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RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Aircrew Officer John Kennedy said: ‘Saving Eli was a massive team effort.

‘It’s been quite an emotional journey, watching his recovery.

Eli was only two when he was bitten on the leg by a coastal taipan in the backyard of his home in the coastal Queensland town of Agnes Water.

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Ms Cervantes recalled hearing her son repeatedly say ‘ow, ow, ow’ and noticed blood marks on his leg when she knelt to him.

She quickly grabbed the young boy and hurried back into their house to call emergency services.

Local Queensland Ambulance Service paramedics rushed to the family’s home to transport Eli to the nearby 1770 showgrounds, where the Bundaberg RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter was waiting.

RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Pilot Mike Thomas said: ‘The two paramedics on the ground were doing a fantastic job and I remember John (RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Aircrew Officer) came running over and said “he’s arrested” and just to see the team swing into action… that just really shows the teamwork.’

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The young boy’s little body almost succumbed to the snake venom pulsing through his veins, but his life was saved due to the fast work by paramedics and quick response of the aircrew.

Despite Eli being severely ill, the medical professionals managed to keep him alive for the duration of the flight to Bundaberg Base Hospital.

Eli spent some time at Bundaberg Hospital and was later transported to Brisbane for specialist treatment, where he was in a coma for a week.

Five years on, the seven-year-old has started school, and despite suffering occasional seizures, Eli is a fit, healthy, sensitive, clever and funny little boy, according to Ms Cervantes.

‘I am eternally grateful for the presence of RACQ LifeFlight Rescue that day.’

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The Coastal Taipan is usually light olive to dark brown but sometimes dark grey to black. The snake’s head has an angular brow and is lighter coloured on the face with red coloured eyes. The serpent’s belly is cream and marked with orange or pink spots. The Coastal Taipan can grow to 2.9 metres long.

The Coastal Taipan is found in northern and eastern Australia. It is known from north-western Western Australia, the northern part of Northern Territory, across Cape York Peninsula and coastally through eastern Queensland to Grafton in NSW. The snake is also common in Beaudesert, Esk and Gympie in southern Queensland.  

The Coastal Taipan lives in open forests, dry closed forests, coastal heaths and grassy beach dunes. It is usually active during the day and also in the early evening when temperatures are warm.  

It is a dangerously venomous snake with strongly neurotoxic venom. It has the third most toxic land snake venom known. Many individuals have died as a result from bites by the Coastal Taipan. 

It is urged that first aid is applied when a person is bitten by the Coastal Taipan and to also seek urgent medical attention.



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