Bobby Martin Jr. was searching for another critter for his outdoor terrarium when he reached his freckled hand into some brush and picked up a black-nosed snake.
The snake bit Bobby's hand, puncturing the flesh between the 7-year-old's middle and ring fingers.
On Monday, Bobby could move only his eyebrows.
"It's terrible," said Bobby's father, Bobby Martin, of Brooksville. "He went from a fully healthy young boy to all but comatose."
Bobby was probably bitten by a poisonous coral snake Sunday, his parents said.
Sick from toxic venom, he could not stop vomiting, so his mother drove him to Brooksville Regional Hospital. Late Sunday, after he started seeing double, Bobby was transferred to intensive care at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.
He cannot move, speak or breathe unassisted, requiring a respirator. But the second-grader is expected to recover.
"It's just going to take time," said his mother, Tina Martin.
It all began about 10:30 a.m. Sunday when Bobby and his best buddy, J.D. Nunn, were playing outside.
Bobby takes pleasure in showing J.D. the wonders of nature: grasshoppers, lizards and grass snakes. J.D., who got a pet boa constrictor for Christmas, has muscular dystrophy and is in a wheelchair.
On their adventure Sunday, the boys spotted a snake slithering across a road. They followed it.
Bobby, 50 pounds with red hair and freckles, picked it up, and the snake latched onto his hand. Bobby used his left index finger to pry the snake off his hand.
He ran home and immediately started throwing up. Soon, he couldn't swallow.
"He didn't want to tell his mother he had been snake-bitten," said Bobby's father, who lays tile in Hernando County.
But Bobby's mother found out what happened from J.D., then called poison control. She was told to get Bobby to a hospital. He was taken first to Brooksville Regional, then All Children's Hospital, where doctors injected him with seven vials of antivenin, his father said.
About 11 p.m. Sunday, Bobby's parents got the fright of their life.
"He quit breathing," Bobby's father said.
The snake's poison apparently attacked Bobby's nervous system, paralyzing his muscles and his lungs, his parents said.
Bobby's mother and father have tried to talk to him.
"Hey, Bob," they said.
He seemed to hear them.
"He raises his eyebrows twice for yes and ignores you for no," said Tina.
Today, doctors are expected to reduce Bobby's sedatives to see if he can breathe on his own.
"Bless his heart," his father said, "You know this hurts him."