(Gray News) - Sixty-year-old Zhang showed up at the Hangzhou Hospital with nine fingers and a cloth-wrapped hand covered in blood.
The farmer had been chopping wood in his mountainside village in the Shangyu district of Zhejiang province, but the loss of his finger was no accident.
Motivated by what doctors say is a local misunderstanding of snake venom, Zhang chopped off his index finger after a type of viper known as the Deinagkistrodon sank its fangs into it.
In Zhang’s community, the snake is known as the “Five-Step Snake.” According to the South China Morning Post, locals believe the snake’s venom will kill its victim before they can take five steps, so it’s not surprising Zhang wouldn’t want to waste any time.
Fortunately for Zhang, doctors confirmed that the venom is not nearly as lethal as commonly believed. Even so, that also means he didn’t need to chop off his finger.
“It’s not necessary at all. The five-step snake is not that toxic,” Dr. Yuan Chengda told Hangzhou Daily.
Dr. Ren Jinping told local media Zhang didn’t present with any of the common symptoms, such as bleeding gums, headaches or breathing difficulties.
Even so, they cleaned his wound and treated him with anti-venom. But since he left his severed digit on the mountainside nearly 50 miles away, doctors couldn’t reattach it for him.
Cases like Zhang’s are unfortunately not rare. The hospital said it has treated more than 1,200 patients who’ve been bitten by snakes.
About 30% of them have tried to self-treat the bites using drastic, unnecessary methods.
“Some used knives to cut their fingers or toes, some used ropes or iron wires to bind the bitten limb tightly, and some even tried to destroy the poison in their body by burning their skin,” Yuan said. “When they arrive at the hospital, some people’s limbs are already showing signs of gangrene.”