BACK ON HIS FEET: John Cale was bitten on his hand by a coastal taipan on Wednesday.
BACK ON HIS FEET: John Cale was bitten on his hand by a coastal taipan on Wednesday. Caitlan Charles

'Blind' 84-year-old takes on deadly taipan in lounge room

WHEN John Cole's wife Ingrid called him into the lounge room on Tuesday night to deal with a snake, he had no idea that three days later he would be leaving Mackay Base Hospital after coming close to losing his life.

Mr Cale survived a close encounter with a coastal taipan at his rural Cannon Valley property. It's not the first time the Cales have had a snake in their house, and the 84-year-old has a special snake catcher made and approved by National Parks to help safely remove them from his home.

But when he entered the lounge room on Tuesday night, he thought he saw one of their regular visitors - a tree snake.

"Over the 18 years (we've lived at the property) we've had about six to 10 snakes in the house, tree snakes, they can get in very easily," he said.

"To me, when I came out into our lounge room, this was just another tree snake. We didn't know it was a (juvenile) coastal taipan.

"(My) eyesight is very poor, it was night-time and night lights aren't all that brilliant.

"I went down to the snake to catch it, went round his head, but missed him.

"He took great exception to this and he charged at me and he got me on the finger. That was all that was needed."

On his second try, Mr Cale managed to catch the snake and put him in a plastic shopping bag, tie it the top and put it in a box with a lid.

"We sat the box up on the counter and my wife said 'You're going ashen, are you alright?' I said, I don't feel too good actually," Mr Cale said.

"I didn't black out, and I didn't collapse, but I sank rapidly down... next thing I was lying on the floor and Ingrid grabbed a tea towel and put it round for a tourniquet, pulled it tight and got me to hold it.

"She said 'what next?' and I said 'I think 000, this wasn't a tree snake'."

Mr Cale was taken to Prosperine hospital where he was given a broad-spectrum anitvenom, before being transferred via the RACQ CQ Rescue helicopter to Mackay Base Hospital.

Yesterday morning, you wouldn't have known Mr Cale had been bitten by one of Australia's most venomous snakes.

He had some bruising on his body, and a small bruise on his pinky finger where he was bitten.

"People will say that I am stupid to try and catch snakes - when I'm blind, and 84 - in my lounge room, but it was nothing unusual. We'd caught lots of snakes, we just didn't know this was the most deadly snake in North Queensland," he said.

"They present no fear to me, there are sensible thing you wouldn't do.

"I wouldn't try to touch a fully grown brown... big snakes, little tree snakes are all quite friendly... and they generally don't bite."

The ex-commercial New Guinea pilot said he doesn't panic easily, but when the doctor told him how close he could have been to death the gravity of the incident began to sink in.

"(The doctor said on Wednesday morning), with the situation with the blood clotting, my age, and the condition of my heart, he said 'there is just one thing I think I should ask you'," Mr Cale said.

The doctor told him the pounding of his chest for CPR in the event of a heart attack could break his bones and puncture his lungs, so serious decisions needed to be made about how far he wanted the doctors to proceed if it happened.

"But nothing happened, anyhow," he said.

Mr Cale was extremely thankful to all the paramedics, doctors, nurses and helicopter staff who helped him from his home to Mackay Base Hospital and the care they provided him.

"It was absolutely fantastic, I couldn't speak too highly of them," he said.



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