Bachuben Shamjibhai Nadasiya was a 65 year old widow who lived with her 4 sons in Bhagamda Village, DhandhukaTaluka, Ahmedabad District, Gujarat. The family lived in a mud house with a thatched roof made of bamboo. The courtyard outside the house was fenced with thorny bushes to deter animals from entering the house. Bachuben’s four sons are all farmers.
The sacks full of produce from their farm were stored inside the house, in the attic and in the corners of each room to ensure they were not rain soaked or plundered. Rodents, however, were a part of their household.
Bite incident: On 20th June 2015, Bachuben was cleaning wheat grains to be crushed in the flour mill. After finishing the chore she began to sweep the floor, where the grains had spilled over, with her bare hands. A few grains were strewn in between the sacks. When she put her right hand into the hollow between two sacks to collect the spilled grains, a cobra, that had probably entered the house after a rat, bit her on the third finger.
In the past there were many instances when snakes had entered the Nadasiya household. The family would capture and release the snakes in the fields nearby. Being followers of Vasuki, the snake god, they would never kill snakes.
Bachuben was taken to the Vasuki temple’s priest. She walked all the way to the temple which was about 500 meters away. The priest chanted mantras and put a white cloth, knotted from both ends around her neck and asked her to go home. He told her that she was cured. Bachuben walked back home. Her family members waited for the next 40 minutes and when she didn’t show signs of trauma that accompanies an envenomation from a venomous snakebite they took her back to the Vasuki temple to pay obeisance to the snake god.
Bachuben was brought back home and within a few minutes, she started showing signs of snakebite related stress. She vomited a few times and started feeling breathless. Seeing the turn of events, the family members and neighbours decided to take her to the hospital in Bhalgamda which was 3 kms away from their village. When they were on the way Bachuben’s brother called and asked about her condition. When he was told that her condition was worsening, he convinced everyone to come to Akru (his village). He told them that the faith healer of Akru was very gifted and that Bachuben would be cured in no time. The group turned and headed for Akru village which was 5 kms away. The faith healer of Akru made slight cuts near the bite area and sucked the blood from the incisions.
When the treatment provided by both the faith healers did not bring any relief and Bachuben’s condition started deteriorating, the family realized that they must rush her to the hospital in Dhandhuka which was 25 kms away from Akru. While on the way, they called the hospital and were informed that the hospital did not have a ventilator. A ventilator is a vital equipment to treat serious neurotoxic snakebite cases as the patient slips into a coma if not treated immediately. The hospital staff advised Bachuben’s family members to take her to Paliyad which was 50 kms away from Dhandhuka in Botad taluka. By the time they reached Paliyad, Bachuben was struggling to breathe. She passed away approximately 5.5 hours after she was bitten by the spectacled cobra.
The family was distraught and brought her body back to the village. Two days after Bachuben’s death, the author spoke to Bachuben’s second son, Manjibhai, who took a vow that they would never again rely on faith healers. Sadly. a realization which came too late to save the life of their mother.
Written by Priyanka Kadam
Snakebite Healing and Education Society has agreed with the family to do a Snakebite first aid awareness program in the village to ensure every villager knows what to do in a snakebite situation.
This story was reported by Vijay Rathod, a school teacher in Shree Dholi-Bhal Primary School, Limbdi. Gujarat.