The Intense Pain of a Copperhead Bite
The pain was becoming loud, and it was filling up the room and bouncing off the walls. I began writhing on the living room rug. I sprawled this way and that, pinned down invisibly by my snake bitten left foot.
I was groaning and for a brief moment Dave’s face loomed over me. His mouth was set in a line and his eyes studied me, searching for something. I heard him rush back to the office where my daughter was still watching the video. I could hear their voices, my daughter Kimber, occasionally Dave, and mostly Doug Simons as he explained in the video how traditional medicine worked. Their sounds came to me mixed in with the loudness of the pain.
I couldn’t understand what they were saying.
I didn’t care.
In Case You Missed It: Read Part 1 Here
Following Familiar Guidance
And then suddenly in the middle of the pain and the roaring in my ears, I felt a quiet calm presence that joined with me. This presence was I, but not I. She was someone very familiar, very wise.
She pointed out that since I was writhing on the floor, why didn’t I just go with it and proactively stretch my body?
I hadn’t been to yoga in a few weeks and I was pretty stiff.
It seemed like a good idea.
So I started to stretch and move my body ahead of the pain. I stretched like I do on glorious, lazy Sunday mornings when I just take up the whole bed and twist and reach and move everything.
It felt good.
Stretching with the Pain
As long as I kept it up there was only the familiar release of muscles stretching. Pain yes, but a familiar pain, an easy pain. A good pain.
She calmly explained that there were new elements of reality that would come with this venom, and I needed to be flexible.
Now when I say she ‘explained’ – it wasn’t like I was hearing any words. Or seeing visions of anyone. I just had a strong sense that this was true. And the words I am writing are my best attempt to explain what I ‘understood’ at the time.
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My Surprise Spiritual Experience
There are many spiritual traditions and mystery schools that have a name for this kind of encounter; your higher self, guardian angle, or spirit guide are a few commonly used names.
I didn’t see anyone, or hear any words. I just ‘knew’ things that are not a normal part of what I know.
I suppose you should always have some caution when dealing with this other layer of reality, as other beings may not necessarily have your best interests in mind.
But the suggestion to stretch had been a good one.
To an external observer, it may have appeared that I was flailing about on the floor. But internally, I was doing some really aggressive stretching.
Whatever. It was a good thing.
The Purging Begins
I did this for a time and then I felt my gut start to tremble.
The calm presence let me know that my body could not afford to waste any resources on digesting the food I had eaten earlier and it would have to go.
“Kimber, will you get me a big bowl please?”
She brought the big stainless steel bowl from the kitchen. I got up on my left elbow, leaned over the bowl, and retched.
The calm presence told me to breathe deeply.
I hadn’t realized that while I was vomiting I was holding my breath.
I breathed deeply through my nose down to my root and was surprised to find how much more easily the contents of my stomach came up.
Then for a moment, I forgot to breath, tightening involuntarily again and the retching was a painful struggle again.
“Breathe,” the calm presence reminded me.
I did, and again it felt miraculously easier.
In my life I’ve had a few episodes of vomiting for one reason or another. And while this time wasn’t exactly pleasant, it was the easiest time I’ve ever had of it.
I rested for a while, surprised at this new insight.
Kimber took the bowl away, emptied it somewhere, and brought it back rinsed clean.
I went through two more long rounds of vomiting.
Accepting Change and Respecting the Snake
There was a pause here where I connected with the calm presence. I’ll write it as best as I understand it, but again, it was not communicated in words or images. Just through direct understanding.
She told me that the venom of a snake is an important gift. If honored properly, it would mean big changes in my life. Most people are afraid of major changes, and that is the underlying cause of the deep fear many people have around snakes.
Unfortunately she didn’t have any specifics on just what changes would occur, or exactly how I should honor the venom (although that would come later). I suppose the vagueness of the message is the problem with these kinds of encounters.
But it was very reassuring and it helped me to relax into this whole process.
I had to agree with her that snakes have a really bad reputation that is largely undeserved. Adam and Eve immediately spring to mind whenever anyone says ‘snake.’ And that story didn’t exactly have a happy ending.
The Purging Continues
Physical reality came rushing back in with a new rudeness. I discovered the contents of my colon had liquefied and needed to be released immediately. It came out violently. Dave barely got me to the bathroom in time.
The convulsions for this release also came in waves over a period of time. The calm presence told me that this too was simply a part of the process. Like the contents of my stomach, what was in my bowels had to be gotten rid of. My body needed to focus resources on healing and not on processing waste.
When this part was finished it was well into the night. Dave helped me to bed. I lay down with the poultice sloshing around my foot and a pillow under my knee. The pain was just a throb down there. A very manageable 1 or 2 on the pain scale.
My body was empty.
The Deepest Breathing and The Slightest Stretch
And then I felt the calm presence again. I understood that the way to honor the venom was to re-learn to breathe deeply as an everyday, ‘all the time’ thing. Yes, yes everyone takes a deep breath when they are stressed, and it is almost a joke to tell someone to take a deep breath when a situation starts to get out of hand. But seriously, if I would take on the challenge of actually breathing deeply as part of every moment of my life, many good changes would come.
She suggested I wear a bracelet. Every time I saw or touched the bracelet I should remind myself to breathe deeply. The bracelet could be of any material; it could be plain or colorful, simple or ornate, a gift or purchased. It didn’t really matter. The bracelet’s primary function is to trigger a reminder to breathe deeply.
And in the mornings for a few minutes before I get out of bed, I should stretch like I had earlier that night. Nothing too crazy. It could be done gently enough not to waken Dave if he were sleeping next to me. Just a few minutes worth would be beneficial. Like a cat awakening from sleep.
Both of these suggestions made a lot of sense to me. Practical and simple, yet, I could see that there would be profound benefits. I promised myself, and ‘her'(?) that I would do these things and work to make them habitual.
And soon after that I was fast asleep.
The Morning After My Venomous Snake Bite
I awoke late the next morning; my foot swollen and my mouth very dry.
Dave got me some water and I gingerly began to drink. We opened up the wrapping on my foot, wondering what my foot would look like. Dave joked that the prickly pear had slow cooked through the night and smelled delicious.
It actually did smell good, and I am not sure he was completely joking.
Overall, the swelling was slowly going down.
He applied a fresh poultice to my foot, with new wrappings.
Reapplying the Poultice and Follow Up Care
To make one poultice Dave told me he needed at least two big cactus pads. Each pad was about 10″ or more in diameter and about 3/4″ thick.
I slept a lot that day. I wasn’t that hungry and I ate sparingly. To help rehydrate, I drank a lot of water, herbal teas, and some green juices.
The pair of crutches we keep by the medical kit came in very handy. I hobbled over to the office and did a bit of work on the computer. But mostly I stayed in bed, reading and sleeping.
There was no more vomiting, diarrhea, or even that much pain. My foot was swollen and it was tender. But there really wasn’t that much to say about it.
We kept the foot poulticed the entire day; changing it twice during the day and once more before I went to bed for the night.
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The Second Morning – Sweet Relief
The following morning I felt much, much better. We took the poultice off for a few hours and I could walk with only a bit of stiffness. I had Kimber drive the riding lawn mower over to the house and I used that to get around and do my chores.
We have a project where we are growing out 120 chickens for meat. These chickens were not the usual heritage breeds I normally work with, but Cornish rock crosses. “Franken birds,” they are somewhat unnatural creatures and I am having to really adjust my systems to accommodate them. We had been having some unusual die offs, which I think were due to the heat. But regardless, I was worried about them, and I was glad to be getting back to work.
I came back to the house and we poulticed my foot for the day. But other than a few extra naps I was mostly back to my normal life.
We had intended to poultice the foot that night, but I never got around to it. And by the following morning, other than a bit of residual swelling and some tenderness, I was essentially as good as usual. The foot was only slightly swollen. I had a meeting in Austin, and the swelling was down so that I comfortably wore a pair of shoes that were normally a bit big for me.
Looking Back on My Snake Bite Experience
What factors do I think went into this being a story with a happy ending? I think there were five key things that were in place.
First, I prepared ahead of time by being familiar with the snakes of my area, and their potential for injury. And I had a plan for what to do in case of being bitten.
Second, I have used traditional medicine for many years. I am familiar with many medicines and I know the process for using them. I have used traditional medicines on several other injuries, both big and small, and I trust myself to use them well.
Third, I have a good sense of knowing what I can handle, and when I should call for outside help (as in going to the hospital). And yes, knowing that there is the medical system as a backup plan is reassuring.
Fourth, I have a strong immune system from years of eating good food, exercising, and taking care of myself. I trust my body to heal.
And most importantly, my family is very supportive and was willing to help with my care. Also, as in many families, I am the one with most of the medical skills, so having the instructional video for them to watch was very useful.
Seek Treatment for a Venomous Snake Bite Right Away
I am writing my story as an example of how you can be prepared and handle an emergency situation. But let’s be clear; if you get bitten by a snake, and you want to try and handle it yourself, you need to have all of the important pieces in place ahead of time. Please don’t think you can just wing it. The statistics for the low number of deaths from venomous snakebites are because people seek treatment right away.
I hope this story empowers you to start taking some of those steps. Get to know the possible dangers in your area – what snakes, spiders, or venomous insects share the Earth with you? Start using traditional medicine on small injuries to gain experience and confidence. And work on improving your general health, especially your immune system.
And do you know what the best way to do that is? Start growing your own food! 🙂
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