Aussie teen lucky to survive after waking up to burning pain in his arm

A teenager has recalled the night he almost died from a funnel web spider bite.

A teenager from Sydney who was bitten by a deadly funnel web spider has lived to thank the zookeepers who helped save his life.

Ollie Kay was fast asleep at home in Hornsby on Sydney's Upper North Shore in February when he woke up to a “burning pain” in his arm in the middle of the night.

Alarmed, he pulled back the sheets to find a large black spider “just crawling around”.

The funnel web spider on Ollie's bed.
Ollie pulled back his sheets to find a large black spider on his bed. Source: Australian Reptile Park

While he and his family tried to work out what to do, the symptoms kicked in. “I started shaking and sweating a lot,” the 19-year-old told the Australian Reptile Park. “That’s when we decided that we needed to go to the hospital.”

By the time he arrived at Hornsby Hospital, Ollie was light headed, nauseous and salivating. However his family got him there within 15 minutes, a crucial time frame, and doctors were able to act “super fast”, administering several vials of antivenom.

Fortunately it took hold quickly and Ollie soon recovered. After several days in hospital to monitor for any damage to his heart, the teen was discharged.

Ollie with the team from the Australian Reptile Park including Billy Collett (second from left).
Ollie met the team at the Australian Reptile Park to thank them for producing the antivenom. Source: Australian Reptile Park

Zookeeper ‘emotional’ at meeting survivor

Six weeks on, Ollie and his family made the trip to the Australian Reptile Park to meet the team that milks funnel web spiders in order to turn their venom into anti-venom.

For Operations Manager Billy Collett, meeting Ollie was one of the highlights of his career.

“When you’re working with highly venomous animals to produce venom that’s going to, in the long run, save human lives, when you meet someone that’s a receiver of that antivenom... I got pretty emotional,” he told Yahoo News Australia.

"It was really good to meet a survivor. That's as rewarding as it can get.”

Each week Billy and his team milk hundreds of funnel webs for their venom which is then sent to a lab in Victoria and turned into antivenom. That’s then sent to hospitals in areas where funnel webs are found including Greater Newcastle, the Central Coast and Greater Sydney.

Without the crucial medication, Billy said Ollie wouldn’t have survived.

“They have some seriously fast bite to death records,” he explained. “Like I'm talking under 15 minutes from bite to clinically dead.”

A member of the Australian Reptile Park collecting venom from a funnel web spider.
The Australian Reptile Park collects venom from hundreds of funnel web spiders each week. Source: Australian Reptile Park

Spider came in hiding in washing

Ollie’s family, who believe the funnel web made its way into the house in washing that had been hanging on the line, know how lucky they are to have the 19-year-old still with them.

“The panic came in after when you realised how serious it actually was and what could have happened if we’d have been 10-15 minutes later,” Ollie’s dad John Kay told the Australian Reptile Park.

“So that’s when as a parent you really start to go, wow that was really close.”

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