Fear can make people do things they later regret.
A case in point comes from China, where news accounts report that a 60-year-old man sliced off his right index finger after being bitten by a snake, fearing that the venom would almost instantly kill him.
“I chopped it off to save my life,” Asian media reported the man identified only as Zhang told his doctor, Yuan Chengda, according to Fox News.
But Yuan said the treatment was a bit extreme, and that Zhang was not in danger of immediate death.
Zhang told doctors that while out cutting wood, he was bitten by a viper that local residents call a “five-step snake” because of a long-standing, but false, belief that those bitten will die by the time they walk five steps after being attacked.
The snake, Deinagkistrodon acutus, is native to southeastern China, northern Vietnam and parts of Taiwan. Its venom has actually been used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other ills.
Zhang, who was under the impression he was facing instant death, chopped off the finger to keep the venom from spreading, the South China Morning Post reported
After bandaging himself, he made his way nearly 50 miles away to Hangzhou, the nearest major city, for treatment.
Yuan, head of dermatology at the Hangzhou Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, said Zhang forgot one thing — he did not bring the severed finger, so doctors could not reattach it.
Self-mutilation after a snakebite is not uncommon, Yuan said.
“Some used knives to cut their fingers or toes, some used ropes or iron wires to bind the bitten limb tightly, and some even tried to destroy the poison in their body by burning their skin,” he said. “When they arrive at the hospital, some people’s limbs are already showing signs of gangrene.”
Hangzhou Hospital has treated 1,200 snakebite patients this year, with about 30 percent trying their own remedy before going to see a doctor.
Yuan said despite local legends about the five-step snake, most patients have about six hours to find treatment before facing death.
“It’s not necessary at all [to cut it off]. The five-step snake is not that toxic,” he reportedly told the Chinese outlet Hangzhou Daily.
In fact, when Zhang reached the hospital, he didn’t display a variety of snakebite symptoms, Dr. Ren Jinping said.
Zhang, who said a neighbor died after being bitten by the same kind of snake that attacked him, told Chinese media he was home and doing fine.
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