LEWISTON, Idaho -- He thought it was a stick, but when it latched onto his hand, Mica Craig knew it was a rattlesnake.
Craig was in the Walmart parking lot about 11 a.m. Saturday when he reached down to grab what he said he thought was a stick and toss it out of the outdoor aisles of garden supplies.
"I picked up that stick, it bit me and I started screaming," Craig said. The 47-year-old Clarkston man was reported to be in good condition by St. Joseph Regional Medical Center staff as of Sunday.
Craig said he has a medical marijuana license to treat rheumatoid arthritis and was at the store looking for mulch.
The 1-foot to 11/2-foot-long snake clung to Craig's right hand when he tried to throw it, he said, but he managed to shake it loose on the ground at his feet.
"I did a tap dance on it and got it killed," he said.
He laid down and clapped his left hand on his right wrist like a tourniquet and held it up from his body, he said.
Maria Geffre and her husband, Chip, drove their pickup truck to Walmart from Asotin that morning. She said Chip has a medical marijuana license as well and he was waiting in the truck as she shopped for soil additives.
Geffre saw Craig, heard his cries and went to help.
She said she called a Walmart employee to get ice. Another woman began calling 911, Geffre said, but stopped when the dispatcher asked for her and Craig's names.
"Maria said we ain't got time for that, get in the car -- let's go," Craig said.
Geffre helped Craig into his nearby car and drove him to an urgent care clinic, leaving Chip, in their pickup truck, unaware of what had happened.
After the urgent care physician told Craig to go to the hospital,
Geffre called Chip to let him know what had happened.
"My husband's like 'What? What are you talking about?' " Geffre said. Craig then said into the phone, " 'Yes, I've just been bit by a rattlesnake and your wife is taking me to St. Joseph's,' " she said.
After observation in the emergency room, Craig said he was released because there were no signs of swelling and the physician believed the snake had not injected venom.
But by the time Craig reached his home in the Clarkston Heights he said his hand was the size of a cantaloup. He returned to St. Joe's where he said he was treated with six bags of anti-venom.
On Sunday, his hand had been cut open to relieve swelling, he said.
"They got all the poison out of me but they don't know how bad the muscle damage will be," Craig said.
The morning before Geffre and her husband went to Walmart, she said she thought to herself it was getting to the time of year when the snakes would be out sunning themselves.
St. Joe's registered nurse Shelli Triplett said the treatment for rattlesnake bites, depending on severity, ranges from observation to the administration of anti-venom.
Triplett said bite victims should not apply ice or a tourniquet, or elevate the bite wound. They should seek medical attention immediately at the onset of symptoms such as redness, swelling or pain in the bite area. They should not cut the bite and attempt to suck out the venom.
Craig said Sunday he was still in intense pain. "My hand feels like it's in a burning fire right now."
He also said he had been in contact with Walmart officials and was told a pest control company was clearing the area and other snakes had been found.
On Sunday, a Walmart manager said he could not confirm or deny that the incident had happened.
"I don't know if I'll ever go back to Walmart," Craig said, adding it was too bad because he liked the store.
Craig said physicians told him he would be in the hospital for two to three more days and his hand would be disfigured.
Bloomsburg may be contacted at codyblmtribune.com or (208) 848-2274. Follow him on Twitter crbloomsburg.
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