The Snake Bite Story

Harlan's near death experience

By Marcella Modisett
Friend of the Hubbards

PAYNE HOLLOW, Ky. (December 1995) Mrs. Modisett, a long-time Madison area physician and friend of the Hubbards relates the story of her experience during a much-talked-about incident in the lives of the Hubbards.

Marcella Modisett

Marcella Modisett

Early one Sunday morning, September 1983, I had a telephone call from Anna Hubbard. She explained that she was calling form the home of one of the neighbors at the top of the hill. (She hadn’t “come out” that way for years.) She said that Harlan had been bitten by a copperhead snake the evening before, when he had stepped out on the patio. He had been up and down all night trying to keep the swelling down, but by morning, because of the swelling and pain, he decided that he needed help.

She and I talked about how we were going to get this accomplished. She thought that Paul Hassfurder had planned to go somewhere that day, so he might not be available to man the boat. She would try to get a couple of neighbor men to go down to the Hubbard home with her to help.

I promised that I would try to catch Paul, or someone, to go over to help get Harlan across the river and I would have an ambulance there at that time. When I called for the ambulance, the driver wanted to know, “Which side?” I explained that, on the Kentucky side, they would need to carry him all the way up the hill, while on the Indiana side, they would meet the boat. But they didn’t have any idea where to go to meet the boat. So I told them I would lead the way.

Fortunately, Paul was still at home when I called, so he said he would go on over. He and neighbors were able, with considerable difficulty, to get Harlan into his homemade wheelbarrow, down to the river and into the boat – wheelbarrow and all. By this time Paul navigated the boat across to the Indiana side, the ambulance was there to take him to the hospital.

I had called ahead to the emergency room to advise them that Harlan would soon be in and why, so they could be searching for the anti-venom serum. Several of the doctors gathered to decide on the proper treatment. There was no serum in Madison. So, should he be sent to the city where there is serum, or kept in Madison and find a source from which to get the serum? Harlan’s preference was to stay in Madison. The serum was located in Louisville and the state police were going to transport it by car.

So he was given the serum, admitted to the hospital, and then it was an hour-by-hour watch to see if the serum would do enough or if the skin of the leg would need to be slit to keep the pressure of the swelling from shutting off the circulation to the lower leg and foot, therefore, making an amputation necessary.

Fortunately, with good treatment, patience and some time in the hospital, he was able to go home – whole.