It felt like a bee sting. But when Gene Schutzler lifted his pant leg to take a look, he saw a set of puncture wounds on his inner calf — and then he noticed the rattlesnake slithering away.
Gene radioed his wife, son and brother-in-law, who had accompanied him to hunt antelope in Oregon’s high desert. They raced back to their truck.
“Many cell phones don’t work in that area,” says Gene’s wife, Ginny. “I hit the red OnStar emergency button and was shocked when they answered because my cell phone did not work.”
Medical advice and guidance
OnStar Emergency Advisor Lynne Piper answered the call. After using GPS coordinates to pinpoint the Schutzlers’ location, she contacted police and patched in OnStar Emergency Advisor Lee-Anne Troughton, who is specially trained in OnStar First Assist. Advisors like Troughton can provide medical advice and rapid guidance, which may result in potentially lifesaving actions.
“They put a tourniquet on, and I told them to leave it and not let him have anything to eat or drink,” Troughton says.
The family was two-and-a-half hours from the nearest highway. “The sheriff sent out a four-wheel-drive vehicle, but the Schutzlers knew the location was too remote and were requesting a helicopter,” Piper says.
A close call
Piper called a medical helicopter service, and they sent a chopper to the area — but the helicopter passed over the family twice without seeing them.
“We asked them if they had anything reflective, and they were able to go into their hunting kit and find a signaling mirror,” says Troughton. “They signaled the helicopter with a mirror and then the pilot was able to get their location.” The OnStar Emergency Advisors stayed on the line with the Schutzlers the whole time, and Piper was communicating with the pilot as well to help guide him in.
After loading Gene onto the helicopter, the pilot raced to a trauma hospital in Boise. Gene was in intensive care for several days, and it took 24 vials of antivenin to get him back on his feet. But he’s just happy to be alive, and amazed that he survived a rattlesnake bite in the middle of the desert.
“By land, it would have taken more than five hours to get to the hospital. I wouldn’t have made it,” Gene says. “OnStar got that helicopter to me fast. I’ll never have a vehicle that doesn’t have OnStar in it.”
See how OnStar Emergency Services also helped subscriber Alice Koone, whose chance for a lifesaving transplant was threatened by a traffic jam.