Graphic: RFDS (Queensland Section) assist four-year-old bitten by snake

Four-year-old Tessa bitten by a king brown snake

Date published

24 Jan 2018

Four-year-old Tessa Wochnik is lucky to be alive after she was bitten by one of Australia’s deadliest snakes at her family’s remote cattle station.

Four-year-old Tessa Wochnik is lucky to be alive after she was bitten by one of Australia’s deadliest snakes at her family’s remote cattle station.

Supplejack Downs Station is a spectacular place to live. Located 740 km south of Darwin, the remote property is a vast sea of wilderness that at times has it challenges, especially during medical emergencies.

“It’s a mother’s worst nightmare. We were all at home when I heard a scream and moments later Tessa stumbled into the kitchen and dropped onto the floor screaming.

“Like most bush kids, Tessa’s tough. It takes a lot to get a reaction out of her so I knew she must have been in a great deal of pain,” Sonia said.

“When I saw the puncture wound on her leg, I was in disbelief thinking it couldn’t have been a snake — she was watching TV in the lounge room for goodness sake!

“But then I remembered we’d had the doors open all morning to let the breeze into the house, giving a snake the perfect opportunity to slither in. That’s when the seriousness of the incident hit me.”

Having lived in the outback for many years, Sonia knew how quickly a snake bike could kill and that she had to act quickly.

With the clock ticking and the nearest hospital an eight-hour drive away, Sonia knew what she had to do.

“Living on a remote station, we make sure we know how to deal with emergency situations.

“The first thing I did was to try and calm Tessa down. While I reassured her, my sister put a compression bandage on the wound with a splint to immobilise the leg. Then, with the first aid completed, I called the Flying Doctor for help.”

Soon after receiving Sonia’s call, a Flying Doctor aircraft was on its way to Supplejack Station equipped with everything the aeromedical team on board might need to treat Tessa.

“Although I was trying to stay strong for Tessa, telling her, ‘It’s ok, you’re going to be fine’, I was actually a mess inside as I’d never had anyone bitten by a snake before and I started to panic.

“That’s when the aircraft flew over the house — it was the most amazing sound. I felt relieved knowing that medical help was only minutes away.”

The airstrip at Supplejack Downs Station was 2 km from the homestead, so Sonia and Tessa drove out to meet the aircraft.

“We drove down the runway and arrived at the same time as the Flying Doctor — seeing them step out of the aircraft felt as if the angels of the sky had arrived.

Thanks to Sonia’s excellent job administering first aid, Tessa was relatively well when she boarded the flight and remained stable throughout.

Less than two hours after departing Supplejack Downs Station they arrived at their destination, where an ambulance was waiting and Tessa was safely transported to hospital.

After a doctor administered the appropriate anti-venom, Tessa was out of danger and able to return home with her mum and dad less than a week later.