Shane Newton, 44, said he and his son Grant were walking in a remote wooded area in the Lake Arrowhead community in Waleska Nov. 18 when he walked past a tree and felt something hit his leg.
“I looked and it was a rattlesnake,” Newton said. “We moved back out of the way (and) we made some phone calls to people who could help find us and call 911.”
Communications Training Officer Cindy Brookshire, a Cherokee E-911 operator who received the call from Newton, said within the first 10 minutes, Newton began having severe reactions to the bite.
“He was having difficulty with breathing and talking and that’s when he passed the phone to Grant,” she said. “I knew immediately I needed to make sure (he made sure his) dad was always talking, make sure he was breathing.”
Newton said he remembers going in and out of consciousness at that point.
“When the snake bit me, it did strike a vein, so what made it even worse is the venom went straight into my bloodstream to my heart and then also I had an anaphylactic reaction to the venom,” Newton said.
Both Newton and Grant shot the snake multiple times, but Newton still faced a potentially fatal reaction to the bite.
As directed by Brookshire, the 9-year-old soon began yelling and waving his orange cap to help guide rescuers to his location. Newton said Grant did an “incredible job” working with Brookshire and kept his calm.
“I could feel my throat tightening up and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to talk much longer,” Newton said. “As a parent, we always realize when our kids don’t act the way they’re supposed to and this time, when he really needed to, he definitely came through.”
Newton thanked Brookshire for keeping them calm during the hour-long ordeal and guiding rescue personnel to the location near Lake Arrowhead Yacht and Country Club, where Newton works as general manager.
“We were on the back side of a mountain,” he said. “For them to find me and get to me that fast, within about 50 minutes, is pretty darn incredible. I promise you I couldn’t get to that spot right now within that amount of time.”
Brookshire, who presented Grant with a certificate and medal recognizing his heroic actions, said Grant was helpful throughout the ordeal.
“The main thing I was so impressed with was that he was able to stay calm,” she said, “Any time I asked a question, he was always able to answer.”
However, Grant said he just did what he was supposed to do.
“Miss Cindy told me what to do,” he said. “I checked to see if my dad could still talk.”
When asked if he felt like a hero, Grant just giggled.
“(In Cub Scouts) we have a summer camp every year and the BB gun shooting made me feel safe,” he said.
When asked what his friends at school thought of his heroism, he said they haven’t said much other than he did a good job.
Brian Reece, extrication specialist with Cherokee Fire, said communications were difficult in the mountainous terrain and at that time of year, it was strange to hear a snake bite report.
“To be honest, I didn’t think it was going to be real,” Reece said. “I thought maybe it was going to be a lizard. … Nobody believed it was a rattlesnake.”
Reece said he was eventually able to locate the father and son and get them to the edge of the woods, where Lt. Ric Mitchell, a paramedic with Cherokee Fire, said an emergency vehicle was able to meet them and take them the rest of the way to an awaiting helicopter.
Newton said he made a full recovery at WellStar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta and went home Thanksgiving Day. Now he’s only got a small scar on his leg from the bite, he said.
“I tell people I don’t even have a cool scar from the deal,” he joked.
But Newton said he wanted to make sure he and his son, who lives in Clearview, Fla. with his mother, were both able to thank everyone involved with their rescue.
“It’s just very humbling to realize how many people it took to save me and the great job that they did,” he said. “Everything came together perfectly.”
Cherokee Fire Chief Tim Prather said he was also initially puzzled by reports, as he went hunting with his son that week in the same area and thought it was too cold for snakes.
“We were walking all over the Chattahoochee Forest,” Prather said. “Snakes were the last thing on my mind.”
Prather added the search and rescue teams did exactly what they are trained to do in instances like this one.
“It’s a team effort to coordinate and get in there to find them,” Prather said.
Newton made sure to thank all emergency personnel involved.
“As bad as this whole ordeal was, I couldn’t have scripted a better outcome,” Newton said. “It was just incredible how everybody worked together.”