Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Possible Cottonmouth Fatality

Death from snakebites are rare, but, over the weekend, a man died after being bitten twice while wading in the James Rivers south of Springfield, MO. 

Gilbert DeLeon, 37, was wading at the Delaware Access Area of the James River when he was bitten on Friday.  Christian County Coroner Brad Cole says his girlfriend wanted him to get medical attention, but he refused and tried to treat himself.  His girlfriend told investigators that DeLeon was lethargic the rest of the evening.  He died early Saturday in his sleep.

In the video at the link, the reporter says DeLeon told his girlfriend he wouldn't go to the hospital because he could not afford it.  I will refrain from my usual tirade about how a perfectly good free market medical system was ruined by government intervention in the 1960s -- except to suggest that government policies and Obamacare may have contributed to Mr. DeLeon's death. 

I have known people to survive venomous snakebites without any sort of treatment.  My father claimed that he was doing all right until he was given the anti-venom, but I think that was a matter of timing.  We got him over to the clinic within about an hour after he was bitten by a copperhead, so about the time he got the shot is when he would have started feeling the full effect.  A bull-headed friend who survived an untreated bite from a copperhead just a few years ago suffered considerably in the process.  He thought he was going to die and told his wife he did not want to be buried in a blue coffin.  He might have been slightly delirious.

The reason I posted this was Ben's comment the other day about cottonmouths versus copperheads.  According the report, unspecified "experts" think the snake was probably a cottonmouth.  Copperheads certainly swim, but it is most likely a cottonmouth given the location and the fact that it happened in the water.  It is rather difficult to imagine what the man could have done to antagonize the snake.  The spokesman for the Department of Conservation mouthed the standard official-speak, "... it is best just to leave them alone ...", referring to snakes and other creatures.  It's possible that the victim cornered the snake or struck at it, but there is nothing in the body of the report to indicate deliberate aggression on DeLeon's part.

There won't be an autopsy but there will be a toxicology test.  The coroner was unsure if that would indicate the species of snake. 

It is a sad story.  The world can still be a dangerous place, and it is always wise to pay attention.


  1. Aye, sad story indeed. Bitten on each leg, so either the snake was very aggressive from the get go or the guy was antagonizing it.
    Either way, his biggest mistake was not going to the E.R.
    I understand not wanting a big medical bill but it sure ain't worth dying over.

  2. I also concur that govt. intervention is one of the main reasons medical bills are so high.

  3. I don't know what a shot of anti-venom costs these days, but I'm pretty sure it's cheaper than a funeral. About ten years ago I took my wife to one of those free-standing urgent care clinics to get a fishhook out of her hand. She wouldn't let me push it through and cut off the barb. It was about $300 -- which seems ridiculous, but it was probably less than a hospital ER visit would have been. I would have tried one of those places rather than take the risk -- especially after getting two doses of venom.