By BETH N. GRAY, Times Staff Writer
The Hernando youth faces a long recovery after he helped a friend escape rattlesnakes after being bitten himself.
WEEKI WACHEE - Doing what came naturally to him almost cost Joseph Edward Michael "Mikey" Evans his life.
The 13-year-old seventh-grader at West Hernando Middle School was hiding behind a palmetto bush in Royal Highlands with his friend, 10-year-old Dustin Wright, eluding two boys who were chasing them.
Mikey felt a "sting" on his right ankle, just above his sneaker. He knew it was snake.
Mikey hoisted Dustin onto his back so the younger boy wouldn't be bitten. He carried his friend 60 to 70 feet out of the woods, said Mikey's dad, Joe Evans, before coming to a house and asking the residents there to call 911.
By the time Joe Evans and his wife, Lorrie, arrived at the scene, at about 8:30 p.m. July 27, paramedics had also arrived and Mikey was already hallucinating, convulsing and acting combative.
The exertion from carrying his friend pumped the venom more quickly through his body.
"He made a bad situation worse," his dad said.
At Oak Hill Hospital, Mikey received four vials of antivenin serum to treat what were determined to be four snake bites, probably from two adult and two baby rattlesnakes.
The baby snake bites are the most poisonous.
Mikey was then taken by BayFlight to All Children's Hospital, where, over three weeks, he received 68 more vials of antivenin.
"We had more than one doctor tell us we could lose him," his mother said.
Ultimately, Mikey's leg needed surgery.
"It was like a can of biscuits dough," said Joe Evans. It burst right open.
"How fast it got bad," he marveled, "but it started healing up fast, too."
Since bringing Mikey home, the Evans family has made adjustments to their lives and in their home to care for him. He uses a walker indoors and a wheelchair for longer excursions.
Joe Evans took off four weeks from his job as a merchandiser for various local firms.
While the Evans family, including daughter, Emily, 10, was able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House near All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg while Mikey was a patient, they had to pay for 12 nights in a motel while their home was being retrofitted with ramps and other accommodations for Mikey's limited mobility.
The teen is being homeschooled.
Moose Lodge 1767 on Wiscon Road, south of Brooksville, where Joe Evans is a member, will stage a fundraising all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast 9 a.m. to noon Saturday to help the family with unexpected expenses. The price is $4 per person. Lodge members are hoping for 50 hungry diners.
Also, Guy-n-Deanna's Elbow Room, along with Eagles Lodge 4497, will sponsor benefit dining at the Elbow Room from 3 p.m. Oct. 7. The restaurant is at 1365 Kass Circle in Spring Hill.
Benefits will help to cover the family's out-of-pocket expenses and future expenses for Mikey's care and convalescence.
Beth N. Gray can be contacted at email@example.com