HEALTH

Snakes rattled by Irene bite two people

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Two people in Montgomery County were bitten by poisonous snakes apparently disturbed by Irene.

A Potomac woman was bitten by a copperhead snake, albeit a small one.

“I had no idea there were poisonous snakes in my backyard by the pool. I mean who would've thought that?” Debra Panitch wonders.

The Potomac resident found copperhead snake in her backyard around 6:30 last night. She was cleaning for a party in honor of her son's bar mitzvah when she spotted the tiny little thing and picked it up to show her kids.

“I was trying to teach my girls don't be afraid of every little spider and squirmy thing,” Panitch said.

But maybe her kids’ instincts were right. When she put it back down, it sunk one of its fangs into her thumb. As she later learned, baby snakes can't control their venom, so it gave her everything that it had.

“I think I really scared them. Obviously, you know, not good to see your mom driven away by an ambulance,” she said.

“I knew she'd be fine in the doctor's hands and stuff but I didn’t know it would be this bad,” said her son Nadiv.

The mother’s hand began to swell to the point that it felt like the skin might burst. It’s good she sought medical help.

“If you don't get something like this treated and its expanding, you can have very serious tissue damage you can lose your hand, or you can lose your life,” Dr. Erik Shobitz said.

Panitch endured painstaking hours of uncertainty waiting to find out whether the snake was poisonous, and then when it was, whether the serum would work. Above all she worried she might steal the spotlight from her son on one of the most important days of his life.

“This wonderful big celebration, and I didn’t want to be the center of attention, I wanted him to be the center of attention,” she says.

After ten vials of serum the swelling began to go down. Doctors expect a full recovery.

“It looks like everything's going to be fine thank God, and I'll be at my son's bar mitzvah,” Panitch says.

A man from Germantown stepped on a snake while walking his dog last night. He too landed in the hospital, but will survive. Doctors say if you don't know what you're looking at, avoid it altogether. If you do get bit, call 911.

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