This is a story from Sahamsapur village nestled in Varanasi district of Uttar Pradesh. Bhola Rajbhar, 60, is a daily wage labourer. He has eight children and lives in a house with unplastered outer brick walls. The small area in front of the cluster of houses has a neem tree and a shed that houses a cow and four goats.
Around 8 a.m. on August 24, 2015, Bhola set out to cut grass for the cattle. He headed towards an area half a kilometer from his house which had wild grass and shrubs growing all over. This was during the monsoon season with grass growing up to a foot in height. In his hurry to gather as much fodder as he could, Bhola didn’t see a snake hidden in the grass. As he gathered a tuft of grass with his left hand, he was bitten by a Spectacled Cobra. He still couldn’t see the serpent and by the time he realized the presence of one, he was bitten 3 times on his hand.
Bhola ran home and informed his family about the bites. Fortunately, his third daughter, Geeta Kumari was at home. As a child, Geeta was struck by polio and left differently abled. This did not deter her from going to school. She had studied till class 12 in a high school nearby and aspired to earn her own living. Geeta knew that the only cure for a venomous snakebite was to go to a hospital. She dug her heels in when the others suggested going to a local faith healer. Geeta managed to convince her family and neighbors that they should take Bhola Rajbhar immediately to the Kachwa Christian Hospital, about 20 kms away for treatment.
Bhola Rajbhar was taken to the Kachwa Christian Hospital on a motor bike with one person driving and another holding him. By the time the trio reached the hospital, Bhola was experiencing signs of envenomation. He was experiencing hot flushes, had blurred vision and suffered respiratory distress.
Bhola was administered 10 vials immediately and kept in the hospital for 3 days. His index finger suffered necrosis and it took 2 months to heal. Total cost of treatment was Rs 9,000. Bhola had to travel to Kachwa Christian Hospital every two days in the initial stages for getting the necrotized wound dressed.
The burden of snakebite treatment was heavy on the family. Apart from losing livelihood till the time he healed, Bhola also had to sell a goat and use the money his daughter Geeta had saved from the dole she receives under a state government scheme to rehabilitate physically challenged people.
India is a country with the highest number of deaths due to snakebites. Many deaths occur due to people believing in faith healing as a cure for venomous snakebites. Bhola could have easily fallen victim and died if his family had taken him to a faith healer. The quick thinking of his daughter saved his life!
Written by Priyanka Kadam