Putnam County man survives rattlesnake bite

PUTNAM COUNTY, Fla. - A man in Putnam County told Channel 4 that he's lucky to be alive after he was bitten by a diamondback rattlesnake.

Clay Petruski said he was bit by the snake near his Florahome residence two weeks ago, and he was just released from the hospital this week.

"I just happened to see one in the road," said Petruski. "I usually see five or six a year. I just prod them with a stick, and they go off into the woods."

Petruski said this time it was different, before he knew it, the diamondback rattlesnake sank its teeth into his hand (pictured).

"I knew I was in trouble, because I could taste it in my mouth," said Petruski. "It was this sulfur, metallic taste. It was real nasty."

Petruski (pictured below) was rushed to UF Health Gainesville. Petruski said his throat was so swollen doctors had to cut a hole in his Adam's apple to allow him to breathe. It took more than 50 vials of antivenin to save his life.

"When the specialist come back, they said it was the most venomous snake bite ever recorded in Florida, and I am the oldest survivor to ever survive such a snakebite," said Petruski. "You know when you're in high school and you want a school record? This ain't the one I wanted."

Petruski said that even during the hardest moments, he never believed he would die from the bite; he said the entire experience was especially hard on his family.

"They were coach, ‘Go on, breathe, breathe,' but I knew she was there, even though I was in a fog," said Petruski.

With higher temperatures now hitting Florida, experts say people should expect snakes to be more active. There are five venomous snakes in Duval County and Brian Eisele, the senior herpetology keeper at the Jacksonville Zoo, told Channel 4 just how lucky Petruski is to be alive.

"To survive a bite like that, he was very lucky," said Eisele. "With a bite from a diamondback, you're going to have hemorrhaging, swelling, tissue destruction at the site."

Eisele said snakes are much more active as the weather heats up and aside from diamondback rattlesnakes there are four other venomous snakes in our area to worry about.

"The pygmy rattlesnake, the canebrake rattlesnake, and of course the water moccasin or cottonmouth. And the coral snake," said Eisele.

Eisele also offered some advice for anyone bitten by a snake.

"Get the jewelry off, because you could have intense swelling at the bite site. Get the jewelry off and get clothing off that is constricting," said Eisele. "Get that at or below heart level and just get to the hospital."

One thing Eisele stressed is that people should never try to "suck the poison" out of a snakebite.

"I wouldn't recommend doing that; that would be like trying to suck something injected with a hypodermic needle into your arm and trying to remove it that way," said Eisele. "It's very, very little chance of actually removing any of it."

Eisele said above all, people need to remember if they come across a venomous snake, they need to play by the snake's rule.

"Just don't get bitten at all," said Eisele. "That's the thing that we recommend here and we use extreme caution when handling them."

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