ATOKA COUNTY, OK -- An Atoka man has grabbed national attention after he was bitten by a venomous snake while noodling, or hand-fishing, a popular sport in Texoma. He says he is lucky to still have his hand, but says he is even more fortunate to still have his life.
20-year-old Destry Mitchell says he was noodling with friends behind a cove on McGee Creek Lake when he was bitten by a three and a half foot Cottonmouth.
"There was a rock sticking up out of the middle of the water so I put my hand on it to move around it, and there was a snake I guess right behind the rock and I guess he saw my finger and he looked at that finger and just latched onto it," Mitchell said.
After pulling the snake off Mitchell alerted his friends who rushed him to the hospital.
"I get to about Lane and it automatically feels like somebody has a hammer just beating you in the hand with a hammer over and over again," Mitchell said.
Mitchell says he was taken to an area hospital, but ended up at OU Medical Center. By that point he realized how severe his injury was.
"When I first got there they were talking about death, you know, and I was like I'm not going to lay in this bed a die over a snake bite, you know, and then they were like 'well sir you're probably going to lose your hand', and I said you can take my hand that's fine," Mitchell said.
Hearing her son could lose his life brought his mother to tears.
"That's the worst thing any mother in the world could hear. So it was scary. " Mitchell's mom, Tamara Edwards said.
After 14 vials of anti-venom Mitchell is alive and well with his limbs in tact. He says he gives thanks to God and his 3-month-old son.
"That's the only thing that was going through my mind was my little boy ,you know, playing catch with him, teaching him how to fish with a rod and reel," Mitchell said.
Noodling is when you stick your arm in a body of water, under a rock in a hole and you will either feel a fish, or it will bite you and latch on.
After his near-death experience Mitchell says he is unsure if he will ever noodle again, but has this message for those who do.
"Noodling is a very very dangerous sport. When you go in there and check your holes make sure your rocks are stable you go under, make sure your surroundings are fine, make sure there's no snakes on rocks," Mitchell said.
In several states noodling is illegal, but it is legal in Oklahoma. This past week Mitchell says his story has made it onto LIVE with Kelly and Michael and says he has been contacted by Animal Planet's Hillbilly Handfishin'.