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Aug 4, 2008

Man bitten by deadly snake is lucky to be alive

Story PictureThe fer-de-lance snake is not a common pet in Belize and with good reason. It is considered one of the most dangerous reptiles in Central America, capable of injecting a hundred and five milligrams of venom in one bite; twice as much the deadly amount to cause death. That statistic did not deter a Lucky Strike resident from keeping a fer-de-lance as a pet and learning his lesson the hard way. News Five’s Marion Ali reports.

Marion Ali, Reporting
Ten days after his four-foot long pet Fer-de-lance delivered two toxic bites, snake man Gilbert Usher was released from the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, perhaps feeling like Lucky Strike’s luckiest resident that he actually lived to tell the tale.

Gilbert Usher, Recovering from Snakebite
“I had di yellow jaw wid wah wowla inna di mi right hand. Usually I would ah hold di yellow jaw by ihself but I had a wowla and I figure dat di yellow jaw mussy neva like di wowla and ih bite mi.”


Marion Ali
“First time yoh had dehn together?”

Gilbert Usher
“Yes, dah di first time I had dehn two together. Usually I have to tek di yellow jaw down by ihself. But dis dah di first time I ever tek two snake down at di same time inna di same hand, first time I ever do that and I feel like dat had something fi do wid it.”

Usher says he was showing the snakes to a group of tourists when something triggered the fer-de-lance and it reacted, biting him on the nose and to the back of the head. Within five minutes he was rendered incapacitated. It took a team of doctors and nurses giving round-the-clock treatment in the Intensive Care Unit to get Usher back to good health.

Dr. Jorge Hidalgo, Internist, K.H.M.H.
“He got the initial dosage of anti-venom in the emergency room then we gave an additional dosage in the I.C.U. As you know, this kind of snake is very dangerous and affect the blood systems, particularly the initial forty-eight hours was really critical because he started to bleed from several areas; from the airway where we put the needles. We put him on mechanical ventilation support, he was on medical coma for seventy-two hours.”

The snake man spent four days in oblivion while the hospital-administered anti-venom treated his poisoned system. Three days after the attack, Usher was taken off life support. It is remarkable that Usher survived the attack and his experience is a harsh reminder to anyone who ventures into the wild or admire these slithery creatures. There are fifty-six types of snakes in Belize, eight of which are poisonous. But before you go killing every snake in sight, Dr. Jorge Hidalgo says there are ways to tell the toxic ones from their harmless counterparts.

Dr. Jorge Hidalgo
“You can look at the snake, that guides you if the snake is venom or non-venom. The shape of the head, if it’s a triangle shape, you know that this should be a venomous snake because the non-venomous is a round kind of head.”

Marion Ali
“That includes the coral snake?”

Dr. Jorge Hidalgo
“That’s in general. The coral snake basically affects the nervous system.”

Marion Ali
“The head of that is also round. Actually, it’s almost the same size of the body.”

Dr. Jorge Hidalgo
“Several features that you can see. The next thing you need to look at is the pupil of the eye in the kind of venom is elliptical shape and the non-venomous is kind of round pupil. The next thing also, you can see that the mouth is a different one and also the tail. The venomous one have a heat sensor close to the nose that is not on the non-venomous one.”

Marion Ali
“So if a non-venomous snake bites me, I don’t have to worry?”

Dr. Jorge Hidalgo
“No, definitely no.”

As for Usher, he says he’ll have to now look at other ways to earn his keep. He jokes that while he is a snake lover, he will now admire these deadly creatures from afar.

Gilbert Usher
“Yes, I dah wah nature lover, I could really seh dat.”

Marion Ali
“Now you have more respect for di Tommy Goff.”

Gilbert Usher
“Believe me it would never be …”

Marion Ali
“From a distance.”

Gilbert Usher
“Yes, you could seh dat again. It would never be wise after I gone through weh I gone through, you think ih would ah be wise fi go back go deal wid den deh? No way, fashion or form. No way, fashion or form believe mi. Dehn wah stay wah distance and I wah deh wah next distance. I dah wah wise man; I get wah second shot at life, yoh think I gwein go screw sat up again? Noh man.”

Marion Ali for News Five.

Doctor Hidalgo urges all snakebite victims to go to the nearest hospital as soon as possible for emergency treatment. And a lucky Usher expressed his gratitude to the doctors and nurses at the K.H.M.H. Intensive Care Unit for saving his life. As for the pet snake that bit him, it was shot dead by one of his neighbours.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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