Friday night is a great TV night for Fakename. First it’s the night Fatal Attractions comes on the Discovery Channel. Then Nat Geo Wild usually has something of interest, and third, Fakename is too tired after a week of mentally exhausting work to do anything more challenging. Although last night she did go to a holiday party first.
Last night’s Fatal Attractions was about snakes again, as many of them seem to be. There is a sort of theme here–snakes, big cats, and crocodiles. There are quite a few other dangerous species you could choose to keep as pets, but maybe nobody keeps fire ants.
So in last night’s episode (there are always two separate but related stories per episode), there was a guy named Brian who had more than 50 venomous snakes he kept in his basement. The other guy was an American living in Mexico who practiced injecting himself with venom in order to make himself immune to particular snakes. In this case, they actually film him injecting himself with the venom from the deadliest snake in the Americas, the Fer-de-lance.
According to the show’s expert herpetologist, this can theoretically work, as long as you don’t inject yourself with too much of the venom at one time. There is apparently not much in the way of study in this field (how many subjects could you find?), so there’s no scientific way to determine how much is too much. But it could work–you could build up an immunity–unless you were Brian.
One night, Brian has a problem with his female King Cobra. She’s trying to lay eggs but they have somehow become “stuck”. He’s up until 2:00 A.M. massaging her to try to get the eggs to come out (he’d been advised to sacrifice her and take the eggs, because if he did nothing, he would lose both her and the eggs), and he has a friend with him.
He’s more or less holding the snake by her tail and her head is draped down to the floor. He fails to notice that the head is getting closer and closer to his foot. And he’s wearing flip-flops, because it’s hot in the basement–prime snake temperature, and he deliberately keeps it that way. Suddenly, she sinks her fangs into his foot and delivers the entire contents of her venom sacs. You can kind of understand this. She was probably terrified, and in pain, and this was her way of saying “Let me go”.
Brian goes over like a felled tree, in seconds. His friend starts screaming, which wakes up his wife and I think it was she who called 911, and they’re there in minutes. Brian dies in the ambulance. What? I said. So soon? Brian had antivenom in his refrigerator, which he assured his friends and family would keep him alive for 8-10 hours, ample time for him to get to a hospital.
So what happened? It turns out that any time Brian was in the basement, he started to have trouble breathing. He was using an inhaler. Because as it also turns out, when you clean the snakes’ cages you are inhaling tiny particles of dried venom. Which could build up your immunity–or could make you more sensitive, as was the case with Brian. He didn’t die from the snakebite, he died from anaphylactic shock.
That goes far to explain my conversation with the allergist after I was stung by fire ants and had an anaphylactic reaction. I said, What if I get stung again? Will it be worse? Or will it be better? He said, I don’t know. The difference between me and Brian is that I avoid fire ants. I don’t love them, and I don’t keep them as pets.
Then the program I watched on Nat Geo Wild was called Caught In The Act, which is not about catching animals robbing convenience stores. It’s photographers more or less accidentally capturing animals doing amazing and usually unheard-of things. One scene was a hippo (herbivorous, normally placid) killing an antelope, who was on the run from wild dogs. Another was of a mother elephant kicking her baby calf. (It was the drought season and they were only yards from water. She was just trying to get it to get up and take a few more steps, but it was too young, weak, and dehydrated to go on). But my favorite was the one that follows. It has a happy ending, and is the perfect story of the underdog who wins.