Friday, July 11, 2008


A friend got bitten by a snake last night. I wasn’t with him, but I was passing on my bike when he and his wife and dog came bursting out of the undergrowth trying to stop a car. Heather was wide eyed with panic, the dog was going crazy, and Cache looked like he was trying to hold it all together. They got a lift home on a truck and I followed stopping to get the snake man on the way. I was expecting us all to get in the car and drive to the clinic. But he was sitting on the grass sipping water while Heather piled green clay on the bite and on the machete cut above it. He said he felt fine.
It was dusk and they had been climbing around a fallen tree. Bad idea really. Dusk and dawn are big snake times. He said the snake had just leapt out bit and disappeared in an instant. From the description it sounded like a hog nosed pit viper: it was short, about 18 inches, dark brown with a red vertebral line, stocky, triangular head and it had been coiled up. The bite marks were about a good ½ inch apart. He had got bitten right on the ankle bone, a vein ran between the incisions. He said he felt something like a sting and looked down and saw the snake. He swiped at it with the machete and managed to cut his leg. The bite bled a lot and Heather sucked on it before running into the street. Vipers venom causes the blood to flow to the extremities, with great swelling and burning at the site. After 20 minutes Cache was feeling nothing, except tingling where the machete had sliced him. There was no swelling and he was totally coherent. His heart was fast. The snake man arrived and looked at the puncture holes and wanted to go find the snake. It was dark, no-one else wanted to go. Heather had started feeding Cache mother in law tongue (Sansevieria) and rubbing it on the incisions. The snake man said the clinic wouldn’t give anti-venom until he began to react, everyone thought he might as well wait at home. We swapped snake stories and then scorpion stories and then stories of things that had died mysteriously. And we waited. Nothing happened. The snake man said that 70% of bites were dry and this, after 3 hours of nothing, certainly seemed like a dry bite. Heather gave me a lift home. He was lucky. Snake boots from now on.