THE WOODLANDS, Texas -- A Huffman, Texas high school cheerleader surprisingly captured video of a copperhead snake biting her last week. She had no idea what happened until she got to the hospital and took the time to look back at the video. She and her mom and now laughing it off, since she's on the healing side of things, but at the time, it was no laughing matter.
On most days, you can find Paris Montgomery tumbling in her backyard. She has been using her time away from school during the pandemic to brush-up on her skills. Her trampoline is usually her safe haven for workouts, at least until last week.
"I was about to go tumble on my trampoline, and I always video myself tumbling, and I was just videoing, and then I was taking my shoes off, and I stepped on a snake and it bit me (on the foot)," explains Paris.
Experts say it was a copperhead.
"I was trying to just walk it off, and then I started limping to my mom, and it started swelling up getting worse and then I couldn't even touch it, so it just got worse really quick," states Paris.
"When she first came to me, she said, ‘Mom, I think something was in my shoe, or I got poked by a stick’, and so I didn't really think it was that urgent until it started swelling. Then I thought maybe a bee stung on her, so I went and got some baking soda and put on it, and it kept getting worse, then wondered if maybe it was a poisonous spider, because I thought it was something in her shoe, because all she remembered was taking her shoe off and it hurting," says Tracy, her mother.
Tracy says her daughter's leg continued to swell and quickly started turning purple, so an ambulance rushed her to Texas Children's Hospital in The Woodlands.
"On the way to the emergency room was the worst I think. It felt just like stinging going through my foot and leg," says Paris. "When we were trying to tell the doctor what happened, she said, ‘I have it on video’ and that's when we zoomed it in and saw it was a snakebite. Even when she saw it, she said ‘there's no way a snake bit me and I didn't know it’, and I'm like, it's on video," says Tracy.
Doctors prescribed four doses of anti-venom, and it was administered through her IV.
"The swelling went down a lot after two or three doses of it. Paris says she is a little scared to go back to her yard, where it all happened, but her dad cleaned up the area to help protect her. She says she'll be more aware than ever before.
What would you do if you found a snake in your yard, or even worse, got bitten by one, like what Paris went through? We turned to Orry Martin, known as "The Texas Snake Hunter" for advice.
He says it's a shame that young Paris is having to recover from a snake bite, but he believes we should all try to learn something from it. He calls southeast Texas a copperhead's paradise because of all our wooded areas.
"People think that if they get rid of this one copperhead in their yard, then all of a sudden they're safe, and they get this false sense of security. But the thing is, people don't realize how many copperheads they actually go right next to, and they don't even realize they're there, because if the snake is doing its job, and they're being what they are designed to be which is predators of these smaller organisms such as mice, insects, and frogs, then they're not going to be seen," explains Orry.
That's why he suggests you search areas outdoors before you hang out there. Paris didn't see the snake at the time, because it blended into the environment so well. If you do find the snake, here's what Orry suggests you do.
"A lot of people think that they need to get the snake in order to get a positive ID and take it to the hospital, but that is not at all necessary. I mean, we only have really two types of snakes around here. We've got vipers, and then we've got the coral snake and the way that their venom acts on a body is entirely different. Most snake-treating doctors, who are knowledgeable in their field, can tell the difference from a bite between those two snakes and it's going to be treated with the same anti-venom. The first thing you need to do is if you can take a picture of the snake (and I'm not saying go near, and don't kill it, don't even try and capture it, just take a picture of the snake), and then focus on remaining calm. Whatever limb got bitten, and usually it's a hand, but in the case of this young lady, it was a foot, you need to elevate that limb above your heart, so that way the venom doesn't just settle right at that spot, and then get to the nearest hospital as quickly as possible. If you're willing to risk it, you can drive to a hospital that is better equipped for this," says Orry.
If you do want to safely get a snake out of your yard, the Snake Hunter has a simple solution for that. First, you could find a professional to help, who can use something like a snake hook.
"If you try to save a snake, people often think that animal lovers love the animal more than the person, but no - your safety is number one. So, if you're not comfortable managing the snake, your first course of action needs to be to reach out on our Facebook page or call your local snake enthusiasts and have them come by and safely remove the snake. I do snake removal for my neighborhood that I live in for free. I come and help all my neighbors, all the time," says Orry.
He goes on to explain how you can take care of it yourself.
"Snakes tend to like things that are black because it gives them that sense of a shadowy hiding spot. So if you have a black trash can, just set it on the side, get you a little broom and just give him a little nudge-nudge on the hiney, and he'll go right in there," explains Orry.
Orry and the Montgomery's have both counted on Dr. Spencer Greene. Tracy says she reached out to him on Facebook, and he immediately walked her through the important steps to protect her daughter. Orry says he's a valuable tool in our community as a medical expert to treat snake bites.