I was not even going to tell you all this, but after I thought about it, I would hate for anyone to make the same mistake.
As some of you probably know, I'm quite new to keeping snakes, and this year was my first year brumating them. I had a trio of ribbon snakes, and I had put them out in the garage with a light to keep the temperature constant. Well, they were always a little bit responsive when I went to check on them, and remained that way for about a month. Then one day, one of them started acting a little bit... different. I kept finding him underneath his water, and I was scared that he was going to drown, even if he was in brumation. It was my first time brumating after all, and I wasn't sure what to be looking for. I removed him from the water, and they were fine. After going out and checking on them, I noticed one of them wasn't responsive at all. I got pretty worried, and decided to bring them all back up to normal temperatures. After all, they've been chilled for a while already. Well, as they were warming over a period of a few days, two of them became very active, looking for hotspots and moving around. One did not. She (the largest female) was very limp, and her body felt very soft. I shone a light in her eyes and there was absolutely no response whatsoever. She also had a large lump where her heart was. I picked her up, and she just hung there. I knew she was dead. I waited a while with her at room temperature, but she didn't move. I figured mabye she died very recently, so I began masaging the heart and lung area, just hoping that mabye her vital functions would kick in and she would be ok. After that failed, I inserted a small tube into her mouth and a little ways down the trachea, and blew a small bit of air in it, hoping that mabye she would start breathing again. Nothing. Her vent looked dry when I checked, and her eyes were a bit glazed. Definitely a very dead snake.
I was pretty upset that my first brumation had ended this way, and I was sad for the loss of a life and such a beautiful young animal. I decided to do a dissection to make sure there were no obvious causes such as undigested food or parasites. So, I did the dissection, and noticed nothing out of the ordinary. No undigested food, nothing. I decide to go through again and just double check, and I look at the heart.
... It is beating. I didn't know what to think. The first time I checked her over, I didn't see any beating. I was so freaked out that I might have dissected a snake that was still alive. But I don't know for sure... After all, this snake was by all appearances very dead. I even left her at room temperature for a while, and still no sign of life. But now, to have her heart beating and apparently functioning normally, this was a bit scary. I didn't want to be the one responsible for killing her. It was beating pretty fast now, and I didn't want the snake to suffer, if in fact it was still alive. So, I cut the heart to stop all the blood flow.
Now... I don't know. I personally don't think she was alive. I think that because of me dissecting her, some blood may have started moving when I cut something, and that may have started the heart again. But if the heart could have been started from that, would she still have had a chance to be saved? The other option is that she was deep in brumation, and didn't wake up with the heat. But if that is the case, why were the other two snakes perfectly fine? And why was she so dry and limp? Her body was like liquid, no support at all. I don't know what to think now. Even if she was dead, if her heart had started from that, I think she could have been saved. But I don't know what to think.
That was my first time brumating, and I feel so bad knowing that either way, her death was my fault. I wasn't even going to tell you all, because it's so dreadful and embarassing to make such a mistake, but I didn't want anyone else to make the same mistake. If your snake looks dead, you better try everything you can to get it to live, before finding out the cause of it's death.
I still don't know what exactly happened. If anyone has any knowledge to share, please let me know. I just feel so bad. Losing a snake is hard, but knowing you may have been able to save it is worse. That's why I'm telling you this. If you are doing anything that you havn't done before, be careful. Make sure you know all you can know before trying something new. I hope no one else makes this mistake.