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Rattlesnake bite helps fuel nursing aspirations for Florida man

Ten years after the snake bite that landed him in the hospital, Ben Smith is graduating from UNF's nursing school.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — UNF Nursing student Ben Smith joined his fellow graduates by taking the ceremonial plunge in the fountain at the college to celebrate their accomplishment.

His path to become a nurse didn't start in the classroom - it started 10 years ago on a paintball field.

"The one fang felt like a hot butter knife," said UNF nursing graduate Ben Smith. "I played a lot of paintball, and that didn't feel right. I looked down, and I freaked out."

What he saw when he looked down was an eastern diamondback rattlesnake digging into his leg.

He was taken to the hospital and treated with 86 and a half vials of antivenom. To put that in perspective, that's almost a half a gallon.

"When I did get to hold it afterward, it was pretty surreal because it was bigger than me," said Smith.

Smith spent two weeks in the hospital - at one point on a continuous transfusion of antivenom.

That experience is still shaping his life, thanks to a nurse named Sergio hat helped him recover.

"As an 11-year-old, it made my hospital experience way better," said Smith. "I was grateful for him. I only wanted him to give me the baths and do therapy with him because he was a guy and I could relate to him. After that, I was like, 'Ok, I have to be Sergio for other people."

Smith's commitment to nursing isn't the only lasting impact of the bite, it's forever changed his hometown of Newberry.

When he was bit, the small town didn't have an ambulance to send his way.

"It's been 10 years this May, and we now have an ambulance in the city, so, we got one," said Smith. "They used my story as evidence as to why we needed one."

Smith says he eventually wants to go back to his hometown after he gets a little experience, because he can see the need for health care in rural areas.

Poison Control has a set of Dos and Don'ts for folks to follow when they get bit.


1) Stay calm

2) Remove jewelry or tight clothes near the area

3) Find your car keys - seek immediate medical attention

4) Try to keep the area as still as possible


1) Cut around the bite

2) Attempt to suck out the venom.

3) Put ice on it

4) Apply a tourniquet

Florida's poison centers reported 315 venomous snake bites in Florida last year, and they happen at all times of the year.

Calling 1-800-222-1222 will put you in immediate contact with a specialist.

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