KINGMAN - It was late at night in early July as 84-year-old John Farinelli started dozing off as he watched TV. All of the sudden, his wife Sylvia Farinelli said: "John, there's a snake in the kitchen."
Still a bit groggy, John pulled himself from his seat and went to the kitchen. He saw the cream-colored snake, went outside, grabbed a pool skimmer and came back in. He held the snake down with the skimmer and threw a towel over the two-foot reptile. Being the tough guy that he is, his plan was to grab the snake and throw it out the door, but the snake had other plans.
As John went to adjust his grip, the snake bent back and bit him on the middle finger of his right hand. John still managed to grab the towel-wrapped snake and throw it out the door,
"It felt like a bee sting," John said. "But in less than 30 seconds, my lungs locked up, I flopped into one of our patio chairs and I couldn't breathe."
Sylvia called 9-1-1, and paramedics and the fire department arrived within minutes.
"He was gurgling, vomiting, completely incoherent and saying over and over, 'My stomach is killing me,'" Sylvia said. "I thought I was losing him. I didn't know what to do."
The snake was cream-colored with a light green tint to it, and it had a muted diamond pattern, Sylvia said. It had slithered into the gravel, so Sylvia grabbed a board, threw it on top of the snake and proceeded to jump on the board 15-20 times, which killed the snake.
Either one of the paramedics or one of the fire fighters said it was a rattler, Sylvia said. But it never made any noise, she added.
Once John and Sylvia arrived at the Kingman Regional Medical Center, doctors gave John some morphine. After that, John said he didn't remember very much else.
Doctors told Sylvia it would probably take four anti-venom drip bags to remove the toxins from John's body, but over a four-day period it actually took seven.
"Between the paramedics, the fire department and the hospital," John said, "they all did a tremendous job."
"He could've died," Sylvia said, explaining that John has chronic obtrusive pulmonary disease, asthma and asbestosis. "They saved his life."
Doctors told Sylvia that a Mohave rattlesnake - otherwise known as Mohave green - had bitten John. She said they based their diagnosis on the witness accounts and the fact that John had two types of venom in his body: hemotoxin and neurotoxin.
Arizona Game and Fish spokesperson Zen Mocarski said he's never heard or seen a cream-colored Mohave green, and added that he would need to see a picture to be able to identify it for sure.
However, he did say Mohave greens have two types of venom. The hemotoxin attacks red blood cells and the neurotoxin attacks the central nervous system.
Greens are particularly dangerous because of this fact, but when people ask Mocarski what the most dangerous snake is, he replies, "The one that just bit you."
Everybody reacts differently to venom, he said. There is no such thing as an "as good as dead" snakebite.
If you find a dangerous snake in your house, calling 9-1-1 should be used as a last option, he said. A better option is to call an exterminator, Arizona Game and Fish or, if it's on the weekends or after hours, Operation Game Thief at (800) 352-0700.
Also, when out and about, always know where you put your hands or feet, especially in the evening, Mocarski said.
"Take a good look at shadows," he said. "And never assume anything. What looks like a cow patty may actually be a coiled snake."
KRMC spokesperson Jamie Taylor said people who are bitten by a venomous snake on the hand should remove jewelry because swelling is imminent. Never use a tourniquet for the same reason, she added.
Also, keep the wound above the heart if at all possible and get help with as little movement as possible.
"An important thing to remember: Time is tissue," Taylor said.
Nearly three weeks later, John still feels rather woozy, but he is getting better everyday.
In hindsight, John said he would have handled the situation differently.
"I never thought I was dying, though," John said. "I'm a World War II guy; I've been through a lot."