"So, you say, a black mamba bite! My wife insisted that I write this page describing the effects of my Black Mamba bite.
Whether this will prove of any interest to anyone is questionable, but you don't live with my wife....
The removal of so called "problem" reptiles is a free service that I offer to the community and surrounding areas. I have been doing so for several years and the service enables me to educate the public about snakes, reduce the risk of a snakebite, and more importantly it prevents yet another snake from being hacked into a thousand little tiny pieces.
Why do I make mention of this service?
Well firstly, it implies that this black mamba bite was not a random accident.
Secondly, it is because of this service that I found myself at that precise location on the morning of April 20th 2005 at 10:32am
I received the call from a rather frantic owner that the three metre snake had taken up residence in the roof of one of the chalets that was to be occupied by guests later that day. Needless to say shacking up with a black mamba was not listed in the brochure as one of the activities, and therefore it had to be removed.
Let me start by saying that receiving a black mamba bite has never been high on my list of priorities, nor any bite for that matter. I approach every situation with caution and follow strict procedures that will ensure the safe removal of any snake. That being said however things don't always work out quite the way you planned them.
It was clear from the start that this was not going to be an easy capture. The 10cm gap between the ceiling and the corrugated roof panels made it impossible for me to climb into the roof. The only way of getting to the snake was by removing the roof panels one by one until the snake was found.
Once on the roof, the first step was to remove all the screws that secured the roof panels to the woodwork. This was done by one of the gardeners.
The first rule when capturing a snake is never let an untrained person assist you. So, once all the screws had been removed I informed the gardener to move back whilst I personally removed the panels. By the time I removed the second panel about a third of the snake became visible. At this point the unthinkable happened....
The gardener, who had been standing well out of the way behind me, leapt in action without warning. To this day I have no idea what went through his mind to prompt him to tackle a three metre black mamba with his bare hands. In a flash he grabbed the snake's tail and began trying to pull it out. Instinctively I reached out to smack his hand away from the snake, and at that moment the snake,turning back on itself, lunged forward and bit me on the hand.
My initial reaction was that maybe I was lucky and received a "dry bite", and had not been envenomated. This proved to be a fleeting thought.
Within 30 seconds I began feeling a "tingling" sensation in my hand as the powerful neurotoxic venom began to take effect.
The following is a step-by-step account of the symptoms of my black mamba bite, and time frames within which they occured. I mentally documented these symptoms becuase I had recently met Dr Roger Blaylock, South Africa's leading venom expert, as well as Professor Graham Alexander of Wits university (currently involved in ground breaking research on the Southern African rock python). I knew that should I survive the black mamba bite, they would want all the "gory" details!
* Within two minutes the "tingling" sensation had spread throughout my arm.
* There was mild swelling at the bite site which was slightly painful when touched. This was more a reaction to the physical bite rather than the venom itself.
* Six minutes after the bite the "tingling" sensation had spread throughout my body. It feels like millions of insects crawling under your skin.
* Eight minutes into the bite I experienced increased salivation.
* I began sweating excessively.
* After about ten minutes I could "taste" the fillings in my teeth. I experienced a "coppery"taste.
* Twelve minutes after the black mamba bite I began feeling drowsy. It became difficult to keep my eyes open. It felt like someone had tied bricks to my eyelids which prevented me from opening them fully.
* After about a quarter of an hour my coordination began to falter. At this point I could still walk, but it felt as if I had punished a couple of bottles of tequilla (without the usual removal of clothing and singing Twistered Sister's "I wanna Rock!").
At this point help arrived to take me to hospital. I realised that my condition would deteriorate rapidly. The effects of a black mamba bite, or rather the neurotoxic venom, attacks the central nervous system which affects motorised coordination including speech. I knew at some point I would lose conciousness. I informed the lady assisting me that should I pass out that the medical staff inject 8 vials of antivenom, and have a respirator on hand should my breathing stop.
(I also informed her that should I "cash in my chips" she should tell my wife that I love her....what a woes! I'll never live that one down)
* Twenty minutes into the bite I begin to lose the ability to control my bodily functions and I experienced incontinence of faeces and urine. Not my finest hour!
* At this point I started developing chest pains, almost as if a sumo wrestler was sitting on my chest.
* After about twenty five minutes confusion and slight hallucinations begin taking over my system. (this probably explains the "how much I love my wife" bit. At least that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it).
* 30 minutes into the bite. Flacid paralysis sets in. I am unable to walk. My arms, legs and head hang limply. Although concious I am unable to respond. My speech is slurred and responses slow.
* After about 40 minutes the real pain sets in. I began trembling and muscular seizure begins to set in. It's like having a cramp in your calf muscle except in this case every muscle in my body cramps up.
* 45 minutes, I begin to have difficulty breathing. Fortunately this coincides with me fading in and out of conciusness.
This lasted for approximately two and a half hours with all of the above symptoms taking their turn at beating the living *** out of my system.
These are all classic symptoms of a black mamba bite and the effects of a neurotoxic venom.
The beauty of a neurotoxic venom is that unlike a cytotoxic venom, there is no residual effect. I was bitten on the Wednesday, Thursday I was out of hospital and catching snakes again.
Although I cannot say that I enjoyed the ordeal the whole experience has proved invaluable when lecturing and educating the public.
And what happened to the black mamba that bit me you ask......
A friend of mine went to catch it and brought him to the hospital later that afternoon so that we could be properly introduced. The next day I had to pose with the rascal for the local newspaper. The headline read "Black mamba bites its rescuer"...
Shortly after that he finally got the freedom and safety I had intended for him from the begining"