Painful Powerful Beauty: How I became a snake’s snack

by Jami Summers on August 6, 2010 · 23 comments

As many of you know, I had my Danger-Magnet gene kick in just after the Fourth of July. So this Friday, I’m sharing a different kind of Powerful Beauty article to explain my spotty absences over the past month.

At the start of July, I took a trip down to Florida to spend some time with friends. With the nice weather and the potential of finding, and photographing a band of wild horses, we set out into a prairie reserve. Since I knew the hike was flat terrain (compared to the typical slick stones and smaller mountainous regions that I normally hike), I opted for sneakers over my heavy hiking boots.
Bionic Beauty goes hiking and gets bitten by a Cottonmouth snake

Bionic Beauty’s Lesson #1: Always, always, always wear hiking boots… no matter how flat, or easy, the terrain. Hmmpfh.

My friend and I actually had just finished warning each other to keep an eye open for snakes since the edges of the grassy trail had slightly mushy shoulders from recent rains.

My friend ~ “Keep your eyes peeled for snakes!”
Me ~ “I ammmm… owwww!” (Yep, I found one.)

With a THUD and what felt like a cross between burning gasoline, nettles, and at least twenty wasp stings – I futterwackened vigorously, one-legged down the path. (Note: For those of y’all who haven’t seen the new “Alice in Wonderland” movie with Johnny Depp, a “Futterwacken” is a funny little dance he does- here’s a Futterwacken video. It’s hilarious. Truly!)

As I forced my brain to slow, I looked back at my friend only to discover what happened. A darn angry Cottonmouth snake had nom-nommed on my ankle. Three freakin’ times!!

BB’s Lesson #2: Some snakes (er hmm, Cottonmouths) are NOT more afraid of you than you are of them. This one came at me from across a rather wide trail. I never even stepped on or startled him. Grrrr.

So anyhow, back to Mr. Cottonmouth (who I named James after the baddie vamp who bites Bella in Twilight). The only thing my friend and I can figure is that Mrs. Cottonmouth must have kicked James to the dog house and he was pissed. Vengeful and angry, James decided to take his frustrations out on my ankle. Yes, I’ve read accounts on the internet saying Cottonmouths are not aggressive. That is BS! I’ve been an avid outdoor gal my whole life and have encountered Rattlers – leave them alone and you’re generally A-OK. This baddie who munched me was on a vendetta.

The first thing to remember after being snake-snacked is to stay calm. Do not panic! Keep your breathing slow, heartbeat down and get yourself to the nearest Hospital ER as quick as possible.  If you need directions to the ER, or an ambulance, call 911!! There really is no home remedy for a snake bite- no matter how Bionic you are.

Personally, we were in a pretty much unreachable area. So I slowly limped the 45 minutes back to the car. As we shuffled along, my friend kept me talking about my favorite TV show plot lines (Alias), characters I love (I found it best to channel Sydney Bristow during this episode of my life), and other distracting topics. After a reaching the car, my friend drove the quick five minutes to the Shands Hospital ER.

BB’s Shocker #1: I didn’t realize venomous snake bites were such a critical injury. I walked into the ER, had barely signed in when I was scooped into a wheelchair and raced back into a room. The nurse calling out “Call the CDC for anti-venom!!” That’s when it dawned on me that this might not be just a quick overnight stay in the ER.

To make a long story, shorter… I ended up spending four days in the Intensive Care Unit. I was treated with eight vials of anti-venom to get all the bad snake gunk out of my system; and was treated with all sorts of nasty antibiotics and painkillers that did nothing. Cottonmouth snakes (aka Water Moccasins) carry extra bacteria in their mouths due to the swampy, bacteria-laden environments that they live and dine in. Those extra bacteria can cause serious secondary infections at the bite site and throughout your entire body.

Of course, different snakes cause different problems. Non-venomous snakes can still cause secondary infections as I explained above. Venomous snakes such as Rattlers, Diamondbacks, Corals, Cottonmouths (these are the four venomous snakes indigenous to the USA) can be either hematoxic, neurotoxic or a combination of the two.
Bionic Beauty's snake bite and stay at Shands Hospital in Florida

  • Hematoxins – Blood borne toxins that may affect your blood, veins, muscles, organs; basically anything in your body containing, or supported, by blood. Hematoxins can cause permanent damage such as atrophy, muscle loss, prevention of blood clotting, or the very-dreaded Compartment Syndrome.
  • Neurotoxins – Toxins that affect your central nervous system- such as your spinal cord, nerves, etc. In the most venomous snakes (located outside the USA), these toxins can cause paralysis.

BB’s Lesson #3: Upon talking to one of my doctors just last week, I learned that one adult male had died from a Cottonmouth bite in a central Florida hospital; and a mother whose son was bitten by a Coral snake, waited 24 hours to take him to the ER… he passed away. Remember… get yourself to the ER, asap!

I spent a week and a half on crutches, two weeks with no driving privileges, and am now completing my month of recovery time. And dag nab it, I never got pictures of those wild ponies, but I never did cry either.

Stay Bionic and snake-bite free please!
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Jami - author and editor of the Bionic Beauty blog

Once bitten, twice shy. Check out these helpful snake bite websites…