Rattlesnake bites Port Lavaca businessman

Elena Watts By Elena Watts

Sept. 4, 2013 at 4:04 a.m.
Updated Sept. 5, 2013 at 4:05 a.m.

A 5-foot western diamondback rattlesnake bit prominent Port Lavaca businessman Russell Cain in his yard about 5 p.m. Sunday.

The 65-year-old was barefoot and stepped on the snake in his flowerbed while watering his wife's flowers.

He was admitted to Memorial Medical Center's intensive care unit about 10 minutes later.

The snake struck the top of his foot, and the venom traveled to his hip. said Cherre Cain, his wife.

"That's the best place to be bitten because there's no meat, no skin to bite into," said Cain.

The area around the bite is blue, and his leg is so swollen that it looks as though it might explode, she said.

Cain received two vials of antivenom, his wife said.

Rattlesnake venom is a hemotoxin, which disrupts blood clotting and destroys tissue, said Trent Teinert, wildlife biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

The antivenom is expensive because its production is time consuming and risky.

"The antivenom is worth its weight in gold," he said.

The antivenom is $99,256 per vial, said Shannon Spree, marketing director with Citizens Medical Center in Victoria.

In lab settings, the snakes are milked by technicians who press their fangs into glass vials to release the venom, which is then concentrated and processed.

"We just want people to watch their kids and be careful," said Cain. "Don't think it can't happen to you - it happened in our manicured yard."

To avoid snakes, Teinert suggests people keep their hands out of dark areas, use flashlights when they walk outdoors at night and cut their lawns. Short grass increases visibility from a distance and limits the rats, mice and other prey that attract snakes.

Snake repellents include chemical sprays which can be purchased at any ranch or garden store, as well as one-quarter-inch fine mesh fencing.

The Cains usually spread crystallized sulfur around their house and yard to repel snakes and other rodents but forgot this year.

Most snake bites occur when people either step on them or get close enough that the snake feels endangered, Teinert said. However, young men harassing or disturbing them account for many instances, as well.

Rattlesnakes, water moccasins and copperheads are responsible for most venomous bites, Teinert said.

Of the 7,000 to 8,000 bites per year in the United States, five to 10 result in fatality, he said.

Since January, Citizens Medical Center has treated 19 patients with venomous snake bites, mostly copperhead, Spree said. One to two of the total each year are usually rattlesnake bites. The emergency room doctor told Spree this is a typical year.

Areas near the heart, such as the face, head and chest, are the worst for snake bites, Teinert said.

Memorial Medical Hospital plans to release Cain on Friday, his wife said.

Russell Cain is a Realtor, chairman of the Calhoun County Republican Party and active in the community.

"I've had to be Russell Cain for the last few days, and I don't want the job," Cherre Cain said. "I can't keep up with it all. I resign."



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