Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Wharton High School student recovering from rattlesnake bite in Tampa

At University Community Hospital on Friday, Jonathan Yokel had received 14 vials of antivenin. He may need more.


At University Community Hospital on Friday, Jonathan Yokel had received 14 vials of antivenin. He may need more.

TAMPA — First it felt like a sharp pinch to his right hand, or maybe being poked with a needle.

Then came a burning, and after that a throbbing. Later the adrenaline would kick in, making it all a blur.

Jonathan Yokel, 16, peered down at the bushes, where he had reached for a basketball that strayed off-court during a pickup game in New Tampa.

He saw it slither away, just like the one on the poster in zoology class.

A pygmy rattlesnake.

He ran, got his mother and was taken by ambulance to University Community Hospital.

Friday afternoon, nearly 24 hours later, he was still getting morphine for the pain and antivenin to neutralize the poison.

In between, he spoke to whoever would help him spread the word.

"Kids have got to be careful," he said. "Summer is coming, kids will be outside. A word of advice: Be careful."

A sophomore at Wharton High School, Jonathan is an honor student and junior varsity basketball player. He missed his first final exam on Friday, precalculus. "This is the one time I'd rather be doing schoolwork," he said.

Before Thursday's incident, he had neither a love for snakes nor what he would call a phobia.

"We had class pets," he said. "We'd hold them. I've killed a couple of black racers in the garage."

The attack gave him a newfound respect for the creature, which appeared to be more than a foot long.

"It was a snake with a lot of venom," said Dr. James Orlowski, judging by the size and spacing of the fang marks and the damage it inflicted.

Jonathan is glad he recognized the snake.

"I want to give a shout-out to my teacher (Kenneth Wood)."

He is glad his mother had returned home from her job at a downtown Tampa law firm.

"I was only home not even five minutes before it happened," said Christine Yokel. "But he is a smart child. He would have known to call 911."

Still, what if Jonathan's brother Brandon, 12, or someone even smaller had reached for that ball? "I was kind of happy it wasn't one of the younger kids," he said.

Doctors say this is a time to become more vigilant about snakes. Heavy rains in recent weeks have flooded their habitats, causing them to move closer to humans as they search for dry land.

"It is an ongoing and very serious problem in Florida," Orlowski said. "What you think might be a stick is not necessarily a stick."

His course of treatment for Jonathan is to manage the pain while fighting the poison. After that, the teen will receive an anti-inflammatory for swelling.

He could go home as early as Sunday, although it's hard to say when he'll play basketball.

"He'll know when he is able to do it," Orlowski said.

Jonathan's writing hand is the one that was bitten, and he has another week of exams.

But that's all right, he said.

"It's all multiple choice."

Wharton High School student recovering from rattlesnake bite in Tampa 05/29/09 [Last modified: Friday, May 29, 2009 10:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Young male hospitalized after shooting in St. Petersburg


    ST. PETERSBURG — A juvenile male was injured Monday morning in a shooting at 2336 17th Ave S, police said.

  2. Big rents and changing tastes drive dives off St. Pete's 600 block

    Music & Concerts

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kendra Marolf was behind the lobby bar of the State Theatre, pouring vodka sodas for a weeknight crowd packed tight for Bishop Briggs, the latest alternative artist to sell out her club.

    Sam Picciano, 25, left, of Tampa and Molly Cord 24, Palm Harbor shop for record albums for a friend at Daddy Kool Records located on the 600 block of Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, Florida on Saturday, May 20, 2017. OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times
  3. How Hollywood is giving its biggest stars digital facelifts


    LOS ANGELES — Johnny Depp is 53 years old but he doesn't look a day over 26 in the new "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie — at least for a few moments. There was no plastic surgeon involved, heavy makeup or archival footage used to take the actor back to his boyish "Cry Baby" face, however. It's all …

    This combination of photos released by Disney, shows the character Jack Sparrow at two stages of his life in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales."  Johnny Depp, who portrays the character, is the latest mega-star to get the drastic de-aging treatment on screen
[Disney via Associated Press]
  4. Putin visits France, hopes to mend strained ties with West


    VERSAILLES, France — On a visit likely to shape Russia-France ties for years, French President Emmanuel Macron hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin at the sumptuous Palace of Versailles on Monday for what the newly-elected French leader said would be "demanding" talks on Syria, the Ukrainian crisis and other …

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, is welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron at the Palace of Versailles, near Paris, France, Monday. Monday's meeting comes in the wake of the Group of Seven's summit over the weekend where relations with Russia were part of the agenda, making Macron the first Western leader to speak to Putin after the talks. [AP photo]
  5. Five cool things to do when it's hot outside


    Summer is not officially here, but it may as well be. School is out, vacations are coming, and it's time to enjoy the outdoors. Don't buy the argument that summer in Florida is too hot to get outside. There is plenty to do, and we'll prove it. Here are five cool things to do outdoors during another hot summer.

    Rainbow Springs State Park is a registered natural landmark. Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon is one several state parks with natural swimming holes in Florida. (Octavio Jones | Times)