Coral Snake Bites Boy on Tongue

from the Palm Beach Post, Florida
Contributed by an Anonymous but Expert AAF Correspondent


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  4 / 5 / 2000
By Joe Brogan
PALM BEACH GARDENS -- Mike Kiekenapp was mimicking what he thought was a harmless kingsnake when the reptile suddenly bit the 15-year-old on his outstretched tongue. 

What the Howell Watkins Middle School eighth-grader didn't realize was that the 2-foot-long snake he scooped up in his front yard the day before was a poisonous coral snake -- with cobra-like venom. 

Kiekenapp was showing the snake to friends when it bit him. He then jumped on his bike and raced a quarter-mile to his home at 9278 Keating
Drive. The family called 911.  

When Palm Beach Gardens paramedic Tony Vazquez and his fellow firefighters arrived at 5 p.m. Friday, Mike was going downhill fast. 

"Upon arrival (Rescue 61) found a 15-year-old male patient vomiting, drooling, diaphoretic (sweating profusely), extremely anxious, with
bite marks to the patient's tongue," Vazquez's report said. 

Thirteen minutes later, Kiekenapp was at St. Mary's Medical Center, where he was given anti-venin to neutralize the poison and a tube was put down his throat to retain an airway because his tongue was rapidly swelling, Vazquez said Wednesday. 

He spent several days in critical condition on a respirator because his swelled throat interfered with his breathing, said his mother, Dorothy. 

Doctors told her he would have died without prompt medical care, she said. 

"On Saturday and Sunday, his face really blew up," his mother said. "He
looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy." 

He still has swelling in his tongue and throat, meaning he has to take antibiotics and eat soft foods even though he's up and around, his mother

He's in good condition, and if all goes well, he'll be home by the weekend, she said. 

"Coral snakes have pretty potent venom but fatalities are rare," said reptile
expert Philip Hall, who is an environmental specialist with the Florida  Army National Guard. "They are not uncommon in suburban areas." 

U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports show that about 8,000 people are bitten annually by poisonous snakes in the United States, and as many as 15 people die. 

His mother said Mike loves fishing, animals and anything to do with the water, and has aspirations of working someday with marine animals. 

In the meantime, his close call hasn't scared him that much. 

Speaking from his hospital bed, he said he plans to continue collecting

Staff researcher Geni Guseila contributed to this story. 

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