3 copperheads. 5 bites. Now his arm looks like it’s been through a ‘meat shredder.’

Lenny Cook likens it to being struck by lightning.

Last Thursday, he opened a dresser drawer in his garage and says he was greeted by the sight of three copperheads knotted in a ball.

He says he was bitten five times.

“It happened so fast, I didn’t realize what I was seeing,” Cook said, in a phone interview from his home. “The second I opened the drawer, they unwrapped and they struck in the blink of an eye. It was like being hit by lightning.”

It’s been six days and the 47-year-old Statesville man said his arm still feels like it’s being “seared with a hot poker.”

“My arm looks like it’s been through a meat shredder,” he said.

The snakes averaged about three to three and a half feet in length, he said, which is about average for copperheads in the Carolinas.

August through October is one of two annual mating cycles for copperheads, each of which can have a dozen or more offspring.

News of the attack on Cook comes two weeks after a string of copperhead bites were reported in the Charlotte area, including three adults and a 10-year-old girl who was bitten while pushing her bike in the road. In still another incident, a man living on Sharon Road in Charlotte killed two copperheads that were in the act of mating on his front porch.

Cook, who spent 20 years in the exterminating business, said he’s actually been bitten six times this year, if you count the time in April that he was bitten by a copperhead on his ankle. He had been doing lawn work. That bite wasn’t any where near as painful as what he’s experiencing now, he said.

“I know enough about poisonous snakes to know you can’t panic,” he said. “When they struck me, I just stepped back and started pulling them off my arm.”

Cook says he immediately called his wife of 21 years, Sandy Cook, to tell her what happened. By then, he said the venom began taking effect. He managed to call 911, and walked from his garage to the front door of his home.

“I was going in and out (of consciousness) when the EMTs got there. The lights and the sirens woke me up. When those toxins get going, it’s like you are seeing stars. You have to slow your breathing and try not to get excited, because that makes it worse.”

Iredell County dispatchers told the Observer’s news partner WBTV that they did get a call for a reported snake bite from Cook’s residence. Cook praises them for their fast response, too.

So what was Cook doing in his garage when he was bitten?

Turns out he was trying to set off a fogger to kill spiders. A chest of drawers is stored in the garage and he was opening the drawers to make sure the pesticide got into it. The copperheads were in the first drawer he opened, he said.

Cook, who is disabled, said he’s far from recovered, even after getting an anti-toxin at the hospital. Nausea comes and goes, as does pain in his joints and a burning sensation in his arm. Sleeping is tough, too, he said.

A few days ago, Cook said he pulled what he thought was a splinter from his swollen arm: “It was a piece of a fang that broke off.”

As for the three copperheads, Cook said he made sure they won’t attack him again.

“I took care of that first thing, before I called 911,” he said. “I killed ‘em all with a shovel.”

Related stories from Charlotte Observer