A mother tells John Parrish about the day her daughter almost succumbed to a deadly dugite. Brow furrowed in concentration, Michelle Nicholls examines her garden before she lets her kids out to play. She remembers all too well the moment, earlier this year, when her 14-month-old daughter Anais came face-to-face with death after being bitten by a deadly snake at daycare.
“It was one of those days where you’re rushing to do everything,” recalls Michelle. “Friends were coming for a barbecue.”
She asked husband Stephen, a farmer, to pick up Anais, her brother Oliver, 4, and sister Maya, 3, from their daycare centre in Bencubbin, 25 minutes away from their home in the wheat belt town of Koorda, 280km north-east of Perth.
He’d only just left when Tracy Tranter, owner of Bush Babes Family Daycare, called to deliver terrifying news – Anais had been bitten by a dugite, a deadly relative of the brown snake.
“Tracy said, ‘Anais has been bitten twice on the wrist by a snake. You better get here straight away,’” says Michelle. “I thought I’d misheard. Then it sank in.”
Fighting back panic, Michelle, a registered nurse, says her professional instincts kicked in. She instructed Tracy to keep Anais still and put a pressure bandage on the bite.
“Tracy said she’d already done it,” Michelle says. “That was really important. I knew that with snakebites the difference between life and death can come down to minutes.”
After calling the local hospital, and the toxicology department at Princess Margaret Hospital in Perth, she called Stephen.
“I’ve just got here. I’ve killed the snake,” he gasped. “You’ve got to get down here.”
Michelle leapt in her car and tore towards Bencubbin – only to intercept the ambulance carrying her daughter.
“I flashed my lights and they stopped and let me on board.”
While Anais was alive, Michelle held grave fears for her little girl.