ASHLAND, Va. (WRIC) — VCU Health sees around 180 snake bite cases a year, so Mike Girdner wasn’t too surprised to encounter a copperhead last summer on his evening stroll with his wife Rachele Dominguez and their dog Shadow.

What Girdner didn’t expect, however, was the severe pain that would stick with him for weeks after the snake bit him.

“I was at first thinking maybe a thorn or something had punctured me,” Girdner said. “But then as I thought about it, I instinctively knew I was bitten by something.”

Medics initially told Girdner the bite wasn’t serious and was likely a “dry” bite ⁠— meaning no venom entered his body. When he woke up the next morning, experiencing more serious symptoms ⁠— fatigue, nausea, a swollen foot ⁠— he and his wife knew something was wrong and went to the hospital immediately.

“He couldn’t walk at all, he couldn’t put any weight on it,” Dominguez said.

After what he described as six long hours in the emergency room, Girdner returned home to heal. His wound left him temporarily immobile, unable to move for weeks.

Now, the couple is hoping to raise awareness about snake bites throughout the community and to help inform others of the proper way to handle a venomous snake sighting.

The Virginia Poison Center says if you come face to face with one of these reptiles ⁠— leave it be and absolutely do not attempt to catch or interact with it.