While picking blueberries, he was bit by a timber rattlesnake above his ankle, and he had lost all of his strength by the time he got back to his pickup. He had fallen to the ground after getting the wrong key jammed into the lock on his truck. Alone and on the ground, he got to thinking.
“Now Jim, you lay here by this truck, and you’re going to die, son,” he thought. “You’ve got to get out to where somebody can find you.”
So he squirmed another 15 yards to the road. He cleansed his life and his heart as he prayed for everybody of whom he could think.
“I don’t know what or how, but I just felt so good,” he said. “It was like warm water coming over me. ... I knew at the time I was at the right place with God.”
Then along came Brian Hunnicutt and his sister, Alicia. They had been hiking in the woods when they heard thunder and decided to cut their outdoor adventure short. They were headed home about 5:30 p.m. when they saw Lane, 66, in the road.
Lane, who lives in the Persimmon community, remembers Brian jumping out and saying, “Man, what’s wrong.” He could only get out, “Rattlesnake,” as he pointed to his leg.
“Oh, my god, I’ve got to get you out of here,” Hunnicutt responded.
Lane said he was grateful that Hunnicutt, 33, was a strong young man. Brian and Alicia worked his 200 pounds into the back of his truck. Brian called 911 and headed out with Alicia holding Lane’s head in the back of the pickup.
“He didn’t stay conscious for maybe a minute, maybe two minutes,” Brian said. “He was in bad shape when we first pulled up on him. He was able to tell us that he was bitten by a rattlesnake, and that’s pretty much it.”
Lane had tried to stand up and walk but was unable to do so. Hunnicutt knew Lane was in bad shape when he got close enough to see his eyes and mouth. He had foam around his mouth, and his eyes had a film over them.
They met some First Responders, who gave Lane oxygen. When the truck made it to the end of Coleman River Road, an ambulance was waiting for Lane. The ambulance took him to Tallulah-Persimmon Fire Department, where he was loaded into a helicopter for a trip to Mission Memorial Hospital in Asheville, N.C.
“It just worked out so perfect,” Lane said about the logistics. He could hear the helicopter landing shortly after he arrived at the fire station. Still, he was far from out of the woods.
“I bottomed out three times from the time I got into the helicopter to Asheville, and they brought me back three times,” Lane said.
He remembered the first two times but had gotten so weak that he had to be told about the third time a defibrillator was used on him. He was hemorrhaging blood from his eyes and every opening in his body. The doctor told him that he had so much venom in his body that it should have stopped his heart. Lane took several steps that the doctor credited as saving his life, beginning with his reaction to the bite.
“I was conscious, and I had my senses about me,” Lane said. “I knew where I was and what was going on from the time of the first strike.”
Lane unfortunately picked the wrong bush at the wrong time. He said the bite felt like he had been hit with a sledgehammer. He immediately saw blood squirting out of two holes.
“It almost knocked my leg out from under me,” Lane said. “He was strong.”
Lane saw the snake’s head slip back under the bush, and he pulled out his .25-caliber pistol. The snake already had recoiled and appeared ready to strike again. He walked up to the bush and fired under it, hitting the snake below its neck. That knocked it down, and he put his pistol on its head and fired again.
“Even if I never made it out of the woods, he wouldn’t hurt anybody else,” Lane said.
He then pulled out his pocket knife and cut himself to the bone around the bite because he wanted to make sure the wound bled well. He also took his suspenders off and made a tourniquet below his knee in an attempt to slow down his blood circulation, but not enough to cut it off. His face, ears and extremities were tingling.
“Everything was on fire,” he said.
Lane had taken two gallon jugs with him to fill with wild blueberries. He placed one of them next to the bush so it could be located in case proper identification was needed for the appropriate antivenin. He put the other jug on a line to where his pickup was parked and crawled about a quarter mile down to his truck and his eventual rescue.
Hunnicutt disputes the notion that he and his sister did anything extraordinary. They just gave Lane, who he had never met before, a ride.
“All we did was drive up on a man and put him in the back of the truck and dial 911,” Hunnicutt said.
He later found out that his parents knew Lane, who had done some work for them on their house. The next day, Hunnicutt called different hospitals trying to find out how Lane was doing. He eventually learned that Lane was in intensive care in Asheville.
“I hoped he was all right,” Hunnicutt said. “It was a pretty scary incident.”
Lane returned home two days later. In his freezer sits the snake, measuring 54 inches long, 3 inches in diameter with 13 rattlers and a button. He plans to buy a 10-gallon hat and wrap the snakeskin around it as a reminder.
“I’m going to hat-band that booger,” he said.