Walmart rattlesnake bite victim continues to recover

May 15 2012 - 10:20am

CLARKSTON, Wash. --The red light on the phone next to Mica Craig's hospital bed blinked with a new call, but this time it wasn't a concerned relative or another reporter asking how a rattlesnake bit him at the Clarkston Walmart.

"I'm about to do a TV interview in five minutes," the 47-year-old Clarkston man said to the caller shortly before 2 p.m. He asked the caller to call back about 3 p.m.

After Craig hung up, he said it was a Walmart claims adjuster.

Craig said he was looking at gardening supplies in the Clarkston Walmart parking lot Friday when he grabbed what he thought was a stick lying on the ground, but was really a 1-foot to 1 1/2-foot long, solid brown rattlesnake that struck him in the hand. He eventually flung the reptile to the ground and stomped it to death.

Monday he was still in St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, hoping to be released that night, and talking on the phone with his good hand.

Walmart spokeswoman Kayla Whaling confirmed Craig was bit at the store Friday (Craig later said he had confused the day when he spoke with the Tribune on Sunday) and that the company had been in contact with him.

"We've been working directly with Mr. Craig and medical providers to ensure that he receives the proper medical assistance," Whaling said, but didn't say if that meant the company would be covering his medical bills.

Most of the calls for Craig that day were from reporters. His story had been picked up by news outlets nationwide from the Seattle Times to the Washington Post. He lost count of how many interviews he had given.

"Good God, I feel like a movie star. See what you did to me," he said to Maria Geffre, who was at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center to visit and accompany Craig to his press conference that included news crews from Spokane.

Geffre is the Asotin woman who drove Craig to St. Joe's on Friday.

Several times on Monday and Sunday Craig called Geffre his lifesaver.

Craig said he was at the store looking for mulch to grow medical marijuana when the snake struck him in the right hand. Geffre was also shopping for soil additives when she saw Craig and heard his cries. Geffre said Sunday she and her husband, Chip, who she said also has a medical marijuana license, often go to Walmart for soil mediums. Monday she told reporters she was shopping for their vegetable garden.

She helped him into his car and drove him first to an urgent care clinic nearby, which told them to go to a hospital.

Chip was still in the couple's pickup unaware of what had happened when Geffre called him on her way to St. Joe.

Dr. Jay Hunter treated Craig in the emergency room, and said Craig showed no signs that venom had been injected, such as redness or swelling, after 2 1/2 hours of observation.

Craig was released with instructions to return if swelling started.

Twenty minutes later Craig returned with a swollen hand and was treated with six vials of anti-venom. In severe bites, Hunter said people can require up to 20.

Hunter said Craig's was the first snake bite he had seen this season. He later said he sees about one a year.

The only treatment, he said, is the anti-venom and there is little first aid that can be done. Tourniquets or cutting the bite open and trying to suck out the venom do not work.

As for snakes at the Clarkston Walmart, Whaling said a pest control company had been called to clear the property and had not found any other snakes, though Craig said Sunday he had been told by other Walmart employees that other snakes had been found.

Whaling said the company is reviewing security camera footage to see how the snake could have got there but called it an isolated incident.

Bloomsburg may be contacted at codyblmtribune.com or (208) 848-2274. 

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(c)2012 the Lewiston Tribune (Lewiston, Idaho)

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