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ARUN RATH, HOST:

Nature writer Jackson Landers takes a lot of risks in the wild. He's ended up in the emergency room a bunch of times. Most recently, he found himself in the hospital after a run-in with a black widow spider living on his front porch.

JACKSON LANDERS: When I finally got bitten, I really should've known better. I knew that they were there on that front porch, and I had left a pair of water shoes, like aqua socks on the front porch. I'd been writing all day, and I decided to go catch dinner. And so I grabbed the shoes and a cast net and some - a fishing pole. And I drove about five miles to the fishing spot, got out of the car, and I put the shoes on. I took a few steps, and I felt a stinging sensation.

And at first, I thought maybe it was - I had a thorn or something in the shoe. And then it got worse. Then it felt like an insect bite. It felt like a bee sting or something. I took the shoe off. I saw two tiny little pinpricks, and I knew it wasn't a bee sting. It was - something had bitten me. I was sort of in denial about what was happening. I walked down to the water, and I went fishing. And I caught three catfish. And as I was fishing, the pain got worse and worse.

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LANDERS: I felt this warmth in my abdomen, and the warmth turned into a tightness. And then the tightness turned into pain, and it was like being punched in the stomach. And that was when I knew that I had to get out of there while I was still able to drive. The venom is a - it's a neurotoxin. It causes muscle spasms and contractions. And by the time I got into the parking lot in the ER, it was like a vise grabbing my abdomen.

This doctor, this toxicologist sat down and talked to me for a while, and he said, you know, listen, we're doing this study with an experimental antivenin. Would you be willing to test it? And I said, what's your track record? He said, well, you'd be the fourth person to volunteer. I said, what happened with the last ones? He said, well, I think two of them got the placebo.

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LANDERS: When they finally put this substance into my IV, there were, I think, 14 or 15 people in the room. It was this moment of incredible tension. And I felt something. It was almost a high. It was this incredible, magical warmth that spread through my arm. And I could feel it spreading, you know, through my arm and through my chest. And it was a wave of relief as pain was erased literally with every heartbeat pushing a little bit farther. And within 10 minutes, I was completely recovered. I felt fine.

And they were able to discharge me just a few hours later. So it was the first time they'd seen a black widow bite that didn't need to be admitted. I was discharged at 3 a.m., and I went home, and I collapsed into bed. And I woke up at some point the next day and went downstairs to make a cup of coffee. And I saw a spider crawling on the floor. And right there was a male black widow. And I took a few pictures of it, and then that guy had to go.

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RATH: Jackson Landers has moved out of the spider-infested house, but he says whenever he sees a messy web close to the ground, he can't help but stop and stare.

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