Originally created 11/21/02

Snake owner survives pet's kiss of death

YACOLT, Wash. - A man who was showing off for friends by kissing his new rattlesnake was bitten on the lip and nearly died.

Matt George, 21, was hospitalized in critical condition after the incident Sunday. By Tuesday, his condition had been upgraded to serious.

Mr. George was showing friends the snake he had caught on a recent trip to Arizona. Holding the 2-foot snake behind the head, he kissed it.

"I said, 'OK, man, you're being stupid, put it away,"' recalled Jim Roban. "He said, 'It's OK, I do it all the time."'

After the second kiss, the snake bit him under his mustache. He dropped the snake on the kitchen floor, and Mr. Roban killed it with his cowboy boot.

As they waited for an ambulance to arrive at Mr. George's home, his face began to swell.

Sheriff's Deputy Steven Johnson said he watched in the ambulance as Mr. George became limp and his eyes rolled back in his head. After Mr. George lost consciousness, he was flown by helicopter to a hospital in Portland, Ore.

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