Friday, April 04, 2008

Friday Fantasy - Part 9, Devil Down Under


The next morning when Mr. Butterfly opened his eyes, he felt absolutely horrible. He had the shakes and could hardly lift his head off the pillow. He had to eat something before he could stand. Donnie brought him some fresh sliced mango from the kitchen and he ate that and drank some water. He began to recover and wasn’t really sure he was up to working a full day. But he would give it a try and see how it went as the day wore on. It’s not like they were going to be way out in the field today. They were just going to be at the Reptile Park, which was not far at all.

When he could stand, he got dressed and he and Donnie went and had breakfast at the eat-in kitchen part of the B&B. The owner was very concerned for his health. After that, they drove the few miles to the park.

They were escorted by a park official from the entrance to the office of Dr. Garry Ludlow, the Director of Snake Venom Production. With him was his Lead Snake Collector, Mr. Alex Spivey. Dr. Ludlow made the introductions and of course, when he got to Mr. Butterfly, he was interrupted as usual.

Dr. Garry Ludlow

Mr. Alex Spivey

“That is right Dr. Ludlow, it is just Mr. Butterfly.”, he said, eyelashes batting on cue, this time at Dr. Ludlow as he had observed that Alex already had eyes for Donnie and he was probably out of his league anyhow. But he was all about Dr. Ludlow. He just had to know what color this man’s pubic hair was immediately! His nearly white blond hair looked like spun sugar and his eyes were the palest blue. He wondered if the hairs on this man’s ass were like spun gold, or all white in the sunlight. Sigh! But he had to focus on, ugh, snakes! To say that each of the pairs hit it off was the understatement of all time! But the meeting continued…

After the introductions, Dr. Ludlow, who instructed everyone to call him Garry, offered a tour of the Reptile Park’s venom collection areas. So off they went. Here is what Dr. Ludlow said:

Snake venom is a highly developed form of saliva, injected by the snake into its victim through hollow, modified fangs. Wear and tear are heavy on the fangs, which are soon blunted or wrenched out in the struggles of prey animals (or when being milked). But fresh fangs are always held in reserve; each poised to move into position when required.

The base of a functioning fang, and often the first reserve fang behind it as well, is penetrated by a duct that leads from a large gland behind the eye. These glands- one on either side of the head - are modified salivary glands surrounded by muscle which, when contracted, forces the clear or yellowish venom along the venom ducts and down through the fangs, squirting out under pressure as if from a pair of hypodermic syringes. Venom may be injected with each of a possible series of consecutive bites. Interestingly however, venom is not always injected.

Unerring judgment and great dexterity are needed to obtain snake venoms from such dangerous species as the common tiger snake. Long fangs penetrate a latex membrane stretched over a glass beaker. The beaker collects the venom, which is desiccated under vacuum or freeze-dried.

After drying, the venom crystals are carefully scraped from the beakers for weighing and packaging. Trained staff who work with the venom in its various stages of processing, wear protective masks to avoid poisoning. Apart from the100 tiger snakes, which take turns being 'milked' during the Australian Reptile Park's daily public demonstrations, all snake venom extraction is done on a scheduled fortnightly basis.

Australian snake venoms are amongst the most powerful animal toxins known. Dried venom from a single tiger snake milking (top vial), which would be far more than enough to cause a human fatality, is compared with the accumulated venom from approximately 100 tiger snake milkings 300 brown snake milkings, and 100 black snake milkings.

An inventory of dried venoms from a wide assortment of native and non-native snake species is maintained at all times. The venom of each species is unique, consisting of a combination of complex proteins, which act on the prey or bite victim in various ways. In most dangerous Australian species, the most significant action of the venom lies in its effect upon the victim's nervous system, hindering the operation of muscles and causing paralysis that can lead to death from heart failure.

Other components present in the venoms of certain species act to destroy blood cells, to cause blood clots or excessive bleeding, or to destroy tissue. Typical early symptoms of bites, where significant envenomation has occurred, include severe headache, nausea, vomiting, confusion, temporary loss of consciousness, fast pulse and tender lymph nodes. Later signs of envenomation may include drooping eyelids, voice change, double vision, difficulty in swallowing and intense abdominal pain, which may be followed by the vomiting of blood.

Antivenoms are produced by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories in Melbourne. Snake venom is forwarded from the Australian Reptile Park to the laboratories where, after being processed, it is injected into Percheron horses. Over 250 horses take part in the antivenom program, all living the life of luxury. They undergo minimal stress during the inoculation and extraction processes. Inoculation is quite harmless, and extraction is as simple as donating blood for humans. The horses are given increasing doses of venom over a period of time until they have built up sufficient antibodies to the venom. After this has occurred, antibodies are extracted from the blood, purified and reduced to a useable form.

The antivenoms taken from the horses are used to treat humans suffering from snake envenomation. Injected into the human bloodstream, the antibodies attack the venom, neutralizing its effects. The dose of antivenom given to a patient varies according to the species responsible for the bite and, when it can be ascertained, the amount of venom injected. The age and weight of the victim makes no difference to the dose of anti
venom required in the treatment.

After the tour, they returned to Garry’s office. Alex said to Donnie with a twinkle in his eyes, “Would you like to see our venomous snakes?”

Excitedly Donnie said “Sure! That would be so cool!” So off they went, two little boys, off to play with their deadly snakes and Mr. Butterfly was left with Garry.

Garry gazed at Mr. Butterfly and said with concern, “You look like shit Mr. Butterfly.”

“Gee, is that what you say to all the boys you like?”

Garry chuckled at that and replied “No, sorry I mean you look like you haven’t slept a solid night this week.”

“That’s because I haven’t. I’m being troubled by horrible dreams and then I wake up in a cold sweat every night since I’ve been in Australia. It has been so bad, that yesterday I went to St. Vincent’s and saw a physician’s assistant. But he couldn’t find anything wrong with me.”

“Hmm. I’m sorry to hear that. Did you have one last night too?”

“Yup. I could hardly get up this morning. If it weren’t for Donnie bringing me some fruit I wouldn’t be here today.”

“I see. I’ll tell ya, I know a very old and wise man that might be able to help you. But it would be kind of an alternative medicine kind of thing. Are you open to that?”

“At this point, I’ll try anything because my only other option is to give up and go home.”

“Okay. He works here as a gardener. Come with me.” Garry stood and they left his office and headed for the grounds. They found him pruning in the kangaroo area. “Pangari, could you please come over here, there is somebody I would like for you to meet.”


Pangari was an old Aborigine. Garry introduced him as a Shaman for his tribe. They sat on the grass in the shade of a large tree and Mr. Butterfly proceeded to tell him the problem. Pangari looked into his eyes, looked at his hands and arms, asked him to open his mouth and stick out his tongue. Then he said his diagnosis was ready. They waited with baited breath.

“You are being poisoned young man, probably with the venom of a snake. It is someone close to you that travels with you always.”

Shock registered on Mr. Butterfly’s face. He said “It must be Donnie!”

Garry said “But how can this be? Snake poisoning must be given into the blood stream.”

Pangari replied “It is probably in your toothpaste young man. Look there first.”

“Oh my god, I feel faint!”, said Mr. Butterfly lying back onto the grass.

“Let me see your gums!”, said Garry and tried to open Mr. Butterfly’s mouth.

“Leave me alone!”, cried Mr. Butterfly rolling away from Garry.

Pangari said “They are bloody, I checked. Probably from the hemorrhagic effects of the snake toxin used.”

“Shit!”, said Garry. “What are we going to do?”

“Lets’ call the police and have Donnie arrested!”, suggested Mr. Butterfly.

“But what evidence do we have? A shaman’s word and your bloody gums? That’s hardly enough.”

“Let’s call St. Vincent’s and tell them to look for snake venom in their lab tests.”, suggested Mr. Butterfly.

“Great idea. Let’s go back to my office and do that.” So Mr. Butterfly and Garry went back to the office to make that call.

After that was done and it turned out that the lab had plenty of blood for the tests, Mr. Butterfly asked if he could be given antivenom for whatever he was poisoned with. “Well only if they find the specific species that the venom is from, if it is from one type of snake and if you got the entire venom and not just one protein. I’m afraid; you’ve already been dosed today if you’ve brushed your teeth. But the good news is that if you also brush your teeth at night, you’ll forgo that dose. So your dreams tonight should not be as bad as they have been on previous nights. You should probably purchase a new toothbrush and hide it from Donnie.”

“Somehow we are going to have to collect the toothpaste and toothbrush as evidence of the crime. The sooner the better. It would be best to have the police do it, but how can we get them to do it if we don’t have enough evidence and that is our evidence? It is like a Catch 22!”, said Mr. Butterfly.

“I hate to say it, but you are going to have to go back and live with him and pretend you know nothing about this until St. Vincent’s finds the venom in your blood. If it is a non-Australian species, it could take more than today and we might find out as late as tomorrow. He is an expert in the field and that makes it all more difficult.”

“I can’t do it!”

“You might have to.”

Just then, the boys returned. Donnie walked in and said “You guys talking about me?”


Dr. Ludlow's research tour: Australia Reptile Park

Dr. Garry Ludlow: So Slowly

Mr. Alex Spivey: Roids N Rants


thonnibg said...

Ah,this Donnie:)
The plot thickens.
Can`t wait to see what will happen next.

peter said...

One venom can be ruled out... the venom of the one-eyed-snake, Mr. B hasn't had that much of a sting since entering Oz.

Anonymous said...

AHHH!!! i hate suspensful cut offs. actually i love them ;) thanks again for the friday pick me up sue :)

Sh@ney said...

I am not afraid of snakes...I am not afraid of snakes...I am not afraid of snakes...I am not afraid of snakes...Oh bite me!
So Donnie has been a bad boy, I don't think I could go back to living with him either without giving 'motive' away. And as for Mr Alex Spivey, I sure would like to sample his private snake collection! (my bad) Now that I am (kinda) in the loops again I am looking forward to next week! Great writing there darling! As always!

Anonymous said...

Genial fill someone in on and this post helped me alot in my college assignement. Thanks you seeking your information.