Serpent season is upon us

  • Friday, May 2, 2014

provided Nolan Taylor with canebrake rattlesnake at Hobcaw Barony, c. 1950.

Recently, I was in my backyard pulling briars from a bed of ivy around an old oak tree. A man I didn’t know was riding by on a bicycle. He stopped and yelled, “Don’t do that. There’s snakes in there!”

A few weeks ago, Kathy Marion told me a hair-raising tale about her daughter, Elizabeth, who was bitten by a venomous pigmy rattlesnake when she was 5-years-old. The Marions were living in the 400 block of Meeting St. in Georgetown, a street abundant with pine trees and bordering on the marsh, an ideal habitat for pigmy rattlers.

Kathy, eight months pregnant, was at home that mid-summer day in 1988 when Elizabeth ran into the house saying she was being chased by bees and was stung on her foot. Kathy looked and knew immediately it was snakebite.

Kathy’s husband, Alex, was summoned from his job at Nautica Marine. At Georgetown Memorial Hospital, doctors determined that Elizabeth would have to be taken by helicopter to MUSC in Charleston.

There was one comedic moment in the midst of this nerve-wracking ordeal. Kathy and Alex were not allowed on the helicopter, so Alex took off for Charleston to be there when Elizabeth arrived. Kathy stayed behind until Elizabeth was safely on the helicopter, then she and her sister-in-law drove to Charleston at break-neck speed.

Neither of them had ever driven over the old Cooper River Bridge and both were terrified. Kathy told her sister-in-law to just straddle the middle lane and over the bridge they went. That’s when they spotted the MUSC ‘copter above them, winging Elizabeth to the hospital. They arrived before she did!

Elizabeth spent a week at MUSC, her leg swollen from ankle to thigh. Fortunately, the doctor who treated her was a leading expert on treatment of venomous snakebites. At one point, he thought Elizabeth might lose a limb, but thanks to his expert care, she recovered fully.

I couldn’t find an account of this on the Georgetown County Digital Library website, but I did find other stories just as amazing.

In September, 1887, Arthur Gibbons of Williamsburg County was bitten by a moccasin near the home of Mr. R. H. Hurst. Mr. Hurst gave Gibbons whiskey and “other remedies.” He killed a frog, cut it open and applied it to the wound. Gibbons’ foot and leg were badly swollen, but he survived.

In August, 1894, the 3-year-old daughter of Mr. S. Scott of Williamsburg County was bitten by a rattlesnake while playing in a barn. Mr. Scott killed the rattler and fetched the doctor, who said the case was hopeless, as the child’s leg was horribly swollen from ankle to thigh. Nonetheless, he treated her with “free use of brandy and ammonia” and she survived.

In December, 1930, young Wingfield Scott was bitten by a copperhead at his home on Pennsylvania Avenue in Georgetown. He had finished an examination at school, returned home early, and was cleaning vines from the porch of his home when he felt a “sharp pricking” on his ankle. He looked down, saw the snake, and took off running for the Atlantic Coast Lumber Drug Store.

Luckily, Dr. Sawyer was at the Drug Store. He applied a tourniquet and they returned to the boy’s home to search for the snake. After killing it, the boy and the snake were driven to the Infirmary in Florence where he was given the proper serum and survived.

In October, 1954, Mr. Ed Fulton survived a bite on his ankle from a “poisonous snake.” Most of the snake’s venom was released into the cuff of his trousers. After successful treatment at the hospital, Mr. Fulton was saved.

In August, 1974, young Pat Matthews of Georgetown was working at Lawrimore and Seitter when a bird flew into the store. Pat caught the bird, took him outside, and released him. The bird hopped under some bushes, so Pat, wanting to make sure the bird was safe, reached in to retrieve him and was bitten by a 5 ft. cottonmouth moccasin. Pat was rushed to Georgetown Memorial Hospital where Dr. W.N. Bennett injected him with antivenom and his life was saved.

Snake season is upon us. Be careful out there!

To Kathy and Alex Marion and the GCDL . . . thanks for the memories.

Debby Summey may be reached at 843-446-4777 or email djsummey@gmail.com.

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