Boy bitten by rattlesnake credited with saving younger sister

11-year-old boy was playing with his 5-year-old sister in St. Johns County yard

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ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – An 11-year-old boy who was bitten by a snake in the yard of his St. Johns County home is being recognized for saving his younger sister.

"We were so in shock," said Margaret Cary, the boy's mother.

Cary's son, Ian, was bitten by a pygmy rattlesnake. He's in crutches as he recovers from the bite on his foot.

"It felt really sharp and it burned," Ian said. "Really painful."

Ian said he was playing in the yard with his 5-year-old sister, Izzy, when she fell in the grass and startled the snake. The 11-year-old went over to help his sister and was bitten by the snake.

He thought the pain was coming from a stick at first because it kept poking him.

"It got sharper and sharper and sharper, and then I looked down and I am just stiff. Frozen," Ian said.  

He said the snake was latched onto his foot.

"The next you know, we just hear horrifying screams," Cary said. "Like gut-wrenching. Awful."

The mother said Ian was hospitalized for two days with a swollen and bruised foot. He received a few rounds of antivenin before he was cleared to go home.

"The nurses and doctors were telling us that he really took the bullet for Izzy (his sister) because she is so young," Cary said. "They just don't know what the venom is going to do to her."

"He risked it for me," said Izzy, the younger sister.

The Cary family hopes sharing its story will help other families be prepared if faced with a similar situation.

"We were like, what are we supposed to do? You would think that you would be opposite. You would be on it," Cary said.

SLIDESHOW: How to spot venomous snakes in Florida

Experts at the Jacksonville Zoo pointed out that it's near the end of mating season for snakes, and it's likely they're more active than usual. If bitten by a snake: 


  • Try to suck out the venom
  • Use a tourniquet
  • Ice the wound
  • Clean the wound


  • Call 911 immediately
  • Take off any constricting jewelry
  • Lie down
  • Leave the wound alone until help arrives

Keeping the lawn trimmed makes it difficult for snakes to hide. Parents should use a rake to make sure the area is clear before the kids go outside to play.

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