Daring handler loses lower leg after snakebite

September 19, 2012

Bibby-Jackie.psd

Jackie Bibby, the daring native of Rising Star who flirts with danger on a regular basis working with rattlesnakes, had a close brush with death last week.

Bibby, who was the subject of a June 30 feature story in the Hood County News about his work handling snakes, had to have part of his right leg amputated just below the knee on Saturday night after being bitten during a performance in Dallas.

Granbury attorney Paul Hyde, a close friend of Bibby, said that the 61-year-old was performing one of his snake-handling shows on Sept. 12 at a private corporate event when a large rattler bit him just above the top of his boot.

Bibby performed in Granbury in July, setting a world record when he held the tails of 13 live rattlesnakes in his mouth at the same time.

Hyde got a call from Bibby a couple of days after the snakebite. Bibby, who has been working with snakes for 43 years, according to Hyde, told him he isn’t going to quit – despite the severity of the injury.

“He takes a risk every time he gets in a snake pit, and we all know that,” said Hyde, who met Bibby about 2-1/2 years ago. “This was his 11th time he has been bitten, and this is definitely the worst.

“It’s sad, and I was very sad to hear about it. My wife and kids love him. He’s the most upbeat and optimistic guy, but this is getting to him a little bit.”

Hyde said the star of Animal Planet’s popular series “Rattlesnake Republic” had been using that particular 6-foot snake for some time as part of his public and private shows – and that it was known to be trouble.

“This one is particularly aggressive, bad tempered and bad natured,” said Hyde, who assists Bibby with business contracts but is not his agent. “He knew to steer clear of that snake. It was difficult to work with.

“He knows what to do when he’s got a snake like that. He had a brief lapse in attention and stepped right in front of it. He knew it was bad as soon as it hit him.”

Bibby passed out but regained consciousness about 30 seconds later, Hyde said. He was transported to nearby Parkland Hospital in Dallas.

Hyde said if the accident had occurred during one of the shows Bibby performs in rural areas – far removed from a trauma hospital such as Parkland – that he might not have survived.

When Hyde got another call from Bibby on Saturday, he said he could tell from the sound of Bibby’s voice that the news wasn’t going to be good.

Bibby told him the lower part of the leg was dead.

“That venom, the second it gets in there, it starts killing tissue, and this one was really bad,” Hyde said. “If he had not been near a hospital, it likely would have killed him.”

Doctors at Parkland amputated the leg below the knee after about 11:30 p.m. Saturday, Hyde said. He traveled to Parkland Sunday morning and was able to visit with Bibby.

“His spirits were pretty high, considering the situation,” Hyde said. “I’ve never met anyone more upbeat than Jackie Bibby.”

The TV program – “Rattlesnake Republic” – apparently will go on, according to Hyde. The series began with a trial run about three years ago before it was picked up for two full seasons, Hyde said. The filming of the upcoming season, to be aired starting in November, had just been completed.

Hyde said that Bibby told him a film crew was at Parkland on Monday, suggesting that the story describing the accident may be used for the TV series.

Bibby explained to him that having his right knee still in place will make it far easier to function with a prosthesis.

Bibby plans on getting used to crutches first, and later will have physical therapy before he can be released from the hospital.

Hyde said Bibby told him, “The next thing you know, I’ll be dancing on it and I’ll be the only one-legged snake man on TV.”

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