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!
<1434>
Jami - author and editor of the Bionic Beauty blog

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

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Stacy August 6, 2010 at 8:34 am

Jami, I am sooo glad that you are doing better. I will continue to pray for your healing! I miss your articles, but I also know that your health is more important than that. Are there any long term effects from a cottonmouth bite?
Btw, great pedi:) At least your toes look beautiful and the docs couldn’t complain about that:) Miss you!

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2 The Cheap Chick August 6, 2010 at 9:48 am

GAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!! Honey! I’m so glad you’re okay! You are okay, right? Right???? You poor thing! Stupid freakin’ cottonmouth…

You know what we don’t have a ton of in MN? POISONOUS SNAKES. I’m just sayin’, maybe you should move up here. Perhaps.

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3 Celazome August 6, 2010 at 11:14 am

WOW! Glad to hear you are OK. How did you even manage to walk those 45 minutes back to your car after getting bit? You are one tough cookie!

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4 Phyrra August 6, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Holy crap! I live here in FL and I’ve not yet seen a cottonmouth. When I lived in Indiana, I saw tons of snakes. Here, I’ve had a black racer snake in my pool though.
I’m so glad you got to the doctor right away, but I’m so sorry for all the pain you went through :(

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5 Nenette August 6, 2010 at 1:04 pm

OMG, Jami, I’m so glad you’re okay! When you tweeted that you were in the hospital, I realized it was bad, but OMG, I had no idea it was THAT bad!
Thanks for the complete update and the valuable, informative links.
You are truly BIONIC, sistah! xo

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6 Robyn @ Hawaii August 6, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Ouch ! Your poor thing, take care of yourself. Just remember State of Hawaii is Snake Free, we have horse ranches but no free roaming horses. Get plenty of R & R !

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7 Luci Weston August 6, 2010 at 5:28 pm

Oh My! Thank goodness you are recovering. And thank you for sharing this experience and the helpful information.

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8 Robyn@Hawaii August 6, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Now that is one hell of a dance you did ! How the moves, and you did not even have to have lessons, a job well done. Nonetheless, I think
you see how many people have missed you blogging.
Now……can you do that dance again and make a video so we can see for ourselves? :) :)

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9 Tashi August 6, 2010 at 6:05 pm

Jami, I’m so glad you’re apparently on the mend!!!! I echo what The Cheap Chick and the others said. Thanks for sharing the back story. BAD, BAD James!!!! Thank the Good Lord, you made it to medical help in time. Hats off to your friend for her help.

By the way, please forgive me, but I thought you *lived* in FL, and took a trip out of state (where the snake incident happened). But maybe my memory fails me. Keep getting better, young lady!! :-D

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10 Bionic Bronnie August 6, 2010 at 6:59 pm

Geez Girl!
I read this during the tail end of a week long wildfire that destroyed thousand’s of acres but our house was (is) so far safe..still on a level 2 evacuation…and just last night I was driving the upper field’s checking for hot spots and hopelessly staring at 200 acres of our burned fencelines……when I noticed all of the SNAKES that are coming out and very obvious laying on top of the black burned earth (everywhere, as far as I can see is black or on fire still).

I am stunned at how many really are around…and stopped to check on the non-venomous species with a tail tug, a blue racer was pretty hot tempered, he whipped around pretty quick at Me….won’t try that again…the Bullsnakes and Rubber Boa’s are just huge and usually very mellow..I just cannot believe how MANY there are!

The rattler’s here have slowly been evolving into non-rattling scary beast’s. Wow, put Me in my place. I have an 8 rattle still drying on the porch from a mailbox troll.

I’m glad you’re feeling better..how scary. Maybe it’s good you didn’t know how much danger you were in or the adrenaline rush probably would have spread the venom much faster…..glad we didn’t lose you Sweetie…Geesh I suggest even snake gaitor’s…they are like half chap’s for horseback riding but thick leather so you can cover your boot’s or shoes and be safe up to the knee.

I usually wear those or take the shotgun if I have to go off of the lawn. I cannot imagine looking for snakes in trees and at all levels like in Florida. eek!

I’m thankful to live where there is only 1 venomous species and think about living in Florida where there are silent assassin’s…oohhhh! The water full of Gator’s–ick! In the water..swimming snakes..ooohhhhh! At least here the water is safe…..My poor girl!

Blessing’s and Hugz
Bronnie

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11 Christine Brown August 6, 2010 at 8:40 pm

I’m so glad that you are okay. I would have freaked out had this happened to me. I have a huge phobia of snakes. I’m sure that I would have passed out in the middle of nowhere….I’m serious. It is great that you can remain calm and get to a hospital in time. I see a garden snake every now and then here and I run in the house like a scared cat! Anyway, glad that you are back and your pedi looks great!!!
Christine

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12 Bionic Bronnie August 6, 2010 at 9:48 pm

Christine is right, I forgot to say it, but at least your toes looked smokin’ sexy!!! Was your Dr. cute? Hah haa!
Get Better,
BB

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13 kortney August 7, 2010 at 12:34 pm

OUCH !! I’m glad you’re ohkay. So far, I’ve only had one encounter with a snake (He ran and I ran, too) but your story definitely encourages me to be more careful. Hope you have a speedy recovery !!

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14 Lori August 8, 2010 at 7:08 pm

Oh man, I can’t believe that happened to you and how you were so amazing at handling the situation!

I lived in FL most of my young life and thankfully no snake bites (I did get bitten by a baby alligator…almost took my little toe off) but I DO know there are some aggressive snakes down there. I had a black moccasin chase me from the water.
I just moved from CT where I lived in the country and we had snakes galore but they were mostly garden type varieties.

This is one of the many reasons I don’t want to go back to FL. UGH!

I am so happy you are alright!

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15 Meredith August 9, 2010 at 12:33 pm

OMG! This is just a crazy story! I’m so glad you’re okay – I imagine that hurt a ridiculous amount. Good to hear you’re on the mend!

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16 Robyn @ Hawaii August 10, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Jami, how is your update doing on your snake bite’s ?

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17 Kelly August 10, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Hi-
I am so glad to hear you are feeling better!!! Stay away from the snakes – us klutzes can’t take those kind of risks!!

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18 laurie lantz August 11, 2010 at 7:55 am

It’s wonderful to hear that you’re doing better, you really are very lucky!! That Cottonmouth really gave you his best shot (um, I mean ‘shots!’) Glad that your recovery has gone so well, sounds like it’s been rough. Take care of yourself & continue to get better! Thanks for everything you do !!

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19 Peter August 13, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Hey, I just came across your site while looking for a review (genifique) and I wanted to post that it is a great site and very no-nonsense, which as a guy into skincare, I really appreciate…
But now I found you’ve had this ordeal!
I am sending you good vibes for speedy complete recovery.
Keep up the great reviews!
I have ahead of me a lot of reading to catch up on reviews :-)
Cheers!

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20 Bionic Bronnie August 14, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Hi Peter!
Welcome! Thank You for the comment and we need more guy’s into skincare!!! We hope you become a regular fixture at Bionic Beauty! Your good vibes are rockin’ this website!!!

Hey Jami!
How’s the recovery coming along?
Bronnie

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21 Bionic Beauty September 16, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Thank you all for the well wishes, thoughts, and messages! They truly kept me up-beat and positive through the whole recovery. I’m pretty much back to normal… still doing Physical Therapy exercises daily due to some tissue that was eaten away by the venom, and working to strengthen my ankle back up, but I could not have asked for a better outcome. Things were way too close for comfort at a few points.

And now, for a “funny-in-a-oh-my-goodness-I-am-going-crazy” note… Do you want to know how much a snakebite costs without health insurance? Over $98,000. By the time the doctors’ get their bills added on, it will be well over $100K. I’m not posting this for sympathy, by any means; but again for knowledge. The important thing is that I am alive and got the proper treatment immediately. The dollar figures are just a number and I am strong enough to figure out some way to work this all out.

Oh and P.S. My computer crashed and died yesterday… hence the lack of updates. I’m blogging from a borrowed computer when I can, and also via my cell phone. Not sure how I will handle getting a replacement, but again- I’m going to stay as positive as possible.

Thank you ALL for being Bionic Beauty readers and sticking with me through the tough, and the fun, times!

Hugs to you all,
Jami

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22 Sara September 16, 2010 at 6:20 pm

God bless you, girl! I haven’t ever been bitten by a snake, but I’ve had two scorpion stings and can’t imagine a pain worse than that. Ouch! I’m so glad you’re doing better and have kept your positive outlook!

On the plus side- your toenails look really cute in that pic! :)

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23 Jess September 16, 2010 at 7:22 pm

I am happy to hear you are feeling better! I loved your side note about futterwacken lol I can imagine doing that same jig if I were bitten.. I am happy you are bionic after all, and made it through this ordeal!

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