After being bitten by his rattlesnake in 1991, this American tried to treat himself with electric shocks by plugging into the spark plug of his car. This astonishing idea then circulated among snake owners in the United States as a remedy for the reptile’s venom. Thanks to this misadventure, science was finally able to put an end to these rumors with a very serious report invalidating the effectiveness of this shock treatment, and confirming its dangerousness on health…
First bad idea: playing with your rattlesnake
Named by the doctors “Patient X”, the man who interests us today is a former marine of the American army. Reptile lover, he then had an impressive specimen of a rattlesnake. He even sometimes played with his funny pet…until the inevitable happened. One fine day in 1991, the reptile bites him on the upper lip. A deadly venom then circulates in the body of Patient X. A race against time begins for his survival. However, he did not immediately seek medical help.
Second Bad Idea: Connecting Your Lip to Your Vehicle’s Spark Plug
Patient X then calls for help… his neighbour. The seer with the swollen lip, this one knows that the hour is serious. Indeed, beforehand, the two men agreed on the reflexes to have in the event of a bite from a rattlesnake. They then apply the protocol discovered (and mostly misunderstood) in a hiking magazine. A method that some snake owners in the region know well, but few have dared to use so far.
The two men walk towards Patient X’s car, lift the bodywork, open the hood. The former marine lies down in front of his vehicle. Using an alligator clip, his neighbor connects his upper lip to the engine spark plug. Then he gets behind the wheel. Determined to save his friend, he puts the eraser on until the speedometer of the car shows 3000 rpm. Hoping to eliminate the venom of his pet snake, Patient X undergoes this strange electroshock treatment for five long and painful minutes.
Bad Ideas That Finally Moved Science Forward
Seeing the result of their protocol, the two men finally call for help. Patient X indeed presents a puffy face marked with multiple burns. Besides, venom is still flowing through his veins. After being rushed to the hospital by helicopter, two doctors manage to save him despite everything. They then produce a report explaining (and confirming) that electroshock treatment of a rattlesnake bite is ineffective. And above all, this type of injury can be treated very well with the administration of an appropriate antivenom…
Patient X and his two rescuers were awarded in 1994 during the Ig-Nobel ceremony, the parodic Nobels, in the “medicine” category. Crunchy anecdote, Patient X and one of the doctors who treated him had already met a few years before the incident. While still a soldier stationed on the Japanese island of Okinawa, the future Patient X had been treated by this doctor… for the bite of a venomous snake, the habu. A misadventure which, it seems, did not dampen his love for scaly beasts.