In the middle of her performance at the Seminole Okalee Indian Village pow wow at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Florida, snake handler Giselle Hosein, 24, was bitten by the three-foot long Indian cobra she was putting back in its cage. The Miami Heraldreports that the cobra nipped the palm of Hosein's hand, a potential death sentence for the wildlife supervisor at the Seminole Okalee Indian Village.
Hosein remained calm, doing her best not to upset any of the spectators at the pow wow as she was taken by the Seminole Fire Department to Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood. Her doctors consulted the Poison Control Information center, which told them the antivenin she required. Luckily for Hosein, the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Venom Response Unit arrived by helicopter to the hospital with five vials of antivenin. They represent the country's only fire-department based antivenin bank, and they saved Hosein's life.
"She was very calm," Lt. Scott Mullin said, a member of the unit, to the Herald. "In a situation like that, hysteria is not your friend."
The Miami-Date Fire Rescue (MDFR) Venom Response Program is made up of a team of highly specialized paramedic firefighters who are trained in response, management and treatment of envenomations. Because Miami-Dade county is home to numerous venomous and poisonous animals, and is the point of entry for a wide variety of venomous animals being imported into the United States, the team maintains the only antivenom bank for public use in the United States, according to their website. Their bank includes antivenin for 50 different kinds of venom, covering some 90 percent of snakes, scorpions and spiders. "The product is made by milking venom from snakes and injecting it into horses," the Herald reports. "Antibodies from the horse’s blood are used to develop the treatment, which is freeze-dried and then reconstituted with saline." The bank is kept at the Tamiami Airport, so it can be easily transported via helicopter.
Hosein's face was already undergoing paralysis from the snake's venom when Mullins got to the hospital. The neurotoxins from the venom were damaging her nervous system, and without the antivenin, this paralysis usually blinds the patient, makes them unable to breathe, and can eventually kill them. Mullin told the Herald it's "like being trapped under ice."
CBS Miami reported that after only 15-minutes, Hosein's symptoms began to decrease.
Hosein is now in stable condition according to a nursing supervisor. Miami-Dade Fire Captain Jeffrey Fobb describes the Indian cobra's response of spreading its hood (in actuality, the cobra's infamous 'hood' is really their ribs) when they encounter a predator, indicative of a cobra who feels threatened.
As for Hosein, she should recover and be fine, but as John Jones, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino wildlife manager told the Herald, "she definitely won't be feeling good for about a week."