Mithradates of Fond du Lac

In his article Mithradates of Fond du Lac, writer Kent Russell documents the time he spent with Tim Friede, a “self-immunizer” who has intentionally injected himself with deadly doses of snake venom repeatedly, over a long period of time.

Friede is not someone who is overly fond of pain, nor is he a religious “handler of serpents.” Instead, he believes that what he is doing is for the greater good. By building up his immune system over many years, he believes that the answer to a larger vaccine may reside in his very body. In his very blood.

The term “mithradates” references Mithradates VI of Pontus. Also known as “The Poison King,” Mithradates consumed a daily concoction that helped his body combat different poisons.

Like any despot, Mithradates inverted humanity’s basic psychic task and made insecurity less, not more, tolerable. He trusted no one, and in anticipation of conspiracy and betrayal, he bricked up his body into an impenetrable fortress.

Though antivenom serums exist, Friede explains some of the challenges: the serums need to be stored at a specific temperature. And they need to be administered under specific conditions, by a doctor. And the biggest kicker of all: you typically need a serum that is specific to the snake that bit you.

Russell does a good job balancing the science and details, as well as documenting Friede’s incredibly interesting lifestyle and personality. Friede is a fascinating character, and Russell is a really strong writer. When discussing how venoms work, and how they may attack different parts of the body (nervous system vs. blood), Russell writes:

Meaning, the damage a venom does is species-specific. Snakebite is thus like lovesickness in that, each time, you’re wrecked special and anew.

A sign of a really great article is that you have difficulty choosing which bits to quote. I have a whole host of phrases and lines that I want to share, so I’ll just direct you to the full article.

It’s a great read. And I found out that Russell very recently released a book, titled I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son. Which I am seriously, seriously considering purchasing – due to just the writing from this one essay.

[via, CC photo via VISIT FLORIDA Editor]

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