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The Snake Wrangler

Employee Spotlight: Vixi Shaw – The Snake Wrangler

For those who haven’t heard, a rather large, cold-blooded creature nearly slithered its way into the main clinic building after falling from a patient’s vehicle near the front entrance.

“I had my back turned and all of a sudden I heard people screaming,” said Vixi Shaw, an entry screener at the north entrance of the main clinic. “And a scream to me is that there’s a medical emergency or someone fell. Once people saw the snake on the ground, all of the patient reps scattered. One was on the table. I mean, everyone fled the scene.”

The incident occurred during the clinic’s peak hours that day. According to Shaw, there were several patients in wheelchairs waiting to be picked up and over a dozen kids from the state school.

Thanks to the quick response by Shaw and Melvin Ford, Hattiesburg Clinic’s security guard, the snake was contained and out of harm’s way in less than five minutes.

“I knew we had to act fast because everyone, especially the kids, were terrified,” Shaw said. “I ran inside and grabbed a plastic grocery bag for us to put the snake in, but Melvin shook his head and said, ‘no way. This bag is too small and he’s going to get out. I am not letting that thing get too close to me.’”

After Ford vetoed the grocery bag idea, Shaw ran inside and grabbed a large garbage bag to cage the snake, which Shaw identified as a non-venomous water snake.

“I told Melvin, here’s the plan: You hold the bag, and I will get the snake,” Shaw said. “All the while, I had to stay calm and reassure patients that the snake was not poisonous and that everything was going to be okay.”

To get the snake into the bag, Shaw first attempted to use a reach extender or “grabber arm” to pick up the snake; however, the snake fought its way out of the device’s grasp. That’s when Shaw knew she was going to have to grab the snake with her bare hands.

“I felt that was the only option at that point,” Shaw said. “Patients were hysterical, and I knew something had to be done quickly. So, I physically grabbed the snake by the head and tossed it in the bag. Then I said to everyone, ‘You see. Everything is okay.’”

Shaw has a background in high-intensity jobs, which she said is how she maintained her composure and stayed calm in this particular high-stress situation.

“I worked in the mental health field for a long time,” Shaw said. “The more chaotic stuff is, the calmer I tend to be. I try to focus on de-esacalating the situation, while telling myself and others that everything is going to be okay.”

“That doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m not freaking out. After the snake incident, it was almost like I didn’t even know what happened. I was running on adrenaline at that point,” Shaw added.

Outside of her job at the clinic (and wrangling snakes), Shaw enjoys kayaking, hiking and spending time outdoors with her partner, Jazz Hoadley, a lieutenant officer with the Hattiesburg Police Department.


If you had to eat one meal every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?

VS: Fruity Pebbles with Almond Milk.

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

VS: Hang-gliding

List three words to describe yourself.

VS: Moxie (determined, fearless), honest, and laidback 

Tate Rutland


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