Utahns are hoping that history won't repeat itself.
As they watch an international effort to save the life of a Salt Lake man bitten by a Pakistani pit viper, many remember a similar effort 25 years ago that failed.Jerry de Bary, the 37-year-old curator of Hogle Zoo, died in 1964 from the effects of a puff adder's bite.
His death came despite several injections of antivenin serum flown from San Diego. An airplane carrying a vial of snakebite serum from Salisbury, Rhodesia - now Zimbabwe - arrived too late to save de Bary's life.
University Hospital physicians, hoping to avoid a similar tragedy, Saturday were closely monitoring the progress of William E. Haast, who remained in serious but stable condition.
The 78-year-old businessman was bitten on the thumb earlier this week while handling the viper.
Because it was the 148th time a poisonous snake had bitten Haast, who is the director of Miami Serpentarium Laboratories, he assumed he was immune to the snake. He didn't check himself into the hospital until 24 hours after he was bitten.
Special antivenin, flown to Salt Lake City from the San Diego Zoo and Los Angeles, have been administered to save Haast's life.
Another batch of antivenin arrived at the hospital Friday night from London. Saturday a shipment arrived from Iran, and another was expected Saturday night or Sunday morning from the Soviet Union.
In an unusual effort initiated by Utah native Stephen Studdert, special assistant to President Bush, antivenins effective against the bite were located in Iran, England and the Soviet Union. U.S. customs rules were waived to place the shipments quickly on flights to the United States.
Hospital spokesman John Dwan said Saturday that the U. Hospital has not been involved in getting the antivenin. And doctors may elect not to use it, "but they are grateful for the hard work and cooperation of everyone around the world that made these options available to them.
"The first determination will be his condition, specifically his fibrinogen level, a substance in the blood that causes the blood to coagulate," Dwan said.
Haast's fibrinogen level, he said, is still dangerously low, but has been rising.
"It probably is a combination of the California venoms given to him and his body starting to produce its own fibrinogen," Dwan said. "But this is the first saw-scale viper bite we've seen at the University Hospital, so we don't know what to expect."
Dwan said the U. specialists "are leery about giving medication from relatively unknown sources.
"If the determination is made that he needs them, they will be given to him in very small doses while we monitor him for reactions," he said. "There are very negative reactions caused by the antivenins; they can cause lung, kidney and other serious problems."
Venom destroys fibrinogen, which puts the victim in danger of uncontrolled bleeding.
"Too much (antivenin) could cause a whole new set of medical problems that would have to be treated."
Unlike Haast, de Bary had handled dozens of poisonous snakes without incident. The 1964 accident occurred when he was cleaning the snake's cage and suddenly blacked out.
LaMar Farnsworth, current zoo director, said the curator told him he remembered trying to break his fall with his left hand when the snake struck. Both of the adder's long fangs penetrated the skin.
He said he grabbed the snake, threw it back inside the cage, shut the door and called for help.
Serum from the South African Council for Scientific Research in Rhodesia was being flown to Utah, but didn't arrive in time. Sister Mary Gerald, who was then the mother superior of Holy Cross Hospital, had telephoned her sister, P. Forrester in Salisbury, requesting the serum.
It had reached Rome and was being transferred to another plane scheduled to reach New York City the morning de Bary died.
The curator's last comments to his personal physician were: "Don't blame the snake. It was not at fault. It is not an aggressive snake."