This is the story of Khumesh Thakkur, a 9 year old boy belonging to the Gond community from Lakhagadh village in the Pithora District.Khumesh has a cute smiling face and was happy to skip school to meet us. Khumesh lives in a household consisting of 18 people. His father Punna Ram is a mason who earns approximately Rs 200 per day. On an average, Punna Ram is able to find work for approximately 10 days in a month. Khumesh’s mother is a housewife who does odd jobs to make ends meet.
Khumesh was bitten on 8th July 2013. On the fateful day he had gone to school. It was close to noon time. All the children were playing in the open area in front of the school. A neem tree stood tall in the middle of the open space. Khumesh was resting against the trunk when a snake came out of the little crevice at the root of the neem tree. It all happened in a split of a second. The snake bit Khumesh in between his toes and disappeared into the slit of the root. As Khumesh sat crying a few children ran to inform the only male teacher of the school, Lekhram Dewangan and Santosh Kaur Hora, Khumesh’s class teacher.
Lekhram tied a tourniquet close to Khumesh’s knee and immediately took him to Anjali Health Care center on his motorbike. Since no one had seen what had bitten Khumesh they were not able to explain the cause of the severe pain. The resident doctor Sr Sijji was doubtful it was a scorpion sting. The local bite area had an on setting oedema (swelling with fluid accumulation) and the child was in severe pain. The symptomatic condition was diagnosed as a venomous snake bite and AVS (Anti Venom Serum) was administered.
After 12 vials of AVS within a span of 3 days, Khumesh was referred to a District level hospital to treat the severe necrosis (local area tissue damage) spreading on his right leg. None of the doctors wanted to take up the case and kept referring the patient to other doctors in the same hospital. An overwhelmed Punna Ram brought his son back home and opted to visit Anjali Health Center for regular dressing of Khumesh’s wound.
After 15 days of treatment, Punna Ram stopped coming to the health center with his son. The doctors lost track of the case and in July of 2014 when we were visiting the region collecting data on snakebites, the missionary nuns tracked down Khumesh’s case.
After one year of the snake bite incident, Khumesh’s wound has still not healed. High cost of treatment has made it impossible for Punna Ram to pursue the treatment. He was given Rs 500 cheque by the state government as compensation for the treatment which he refused to accept. Meanwhile morbidity has set in and the child’s leg has become deformed. Khumesh now walks with a sever limp.
Written by Priyanka Kadam.