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.
Sukhmoti Maran Patel is 38 years old. She is a resident of Lakshmipur village, Pithora tehsil of Mahasamund district, Chhatisgarh. She is married and is the mother of four children. Her husband, Pautram, works as a farm labourer and vegetable vendor. They have a cow and sell milk on the side. Pautram does odd jobs to supplement his earnings.
The family lives in a three room cemented house with a thatched roof. They have a pucca cow shed. Their house has electric supply but the cooking is done on firewood which Pautram collects by making two or three visits to the forest per month.
BITE INCIDENT: Sukhmoti was bitten on the third finger of her right hand on Nov 11, 2013 at twelve noon. The snake was hiding in a bamboo used to support the extended roof. She had gone to hang a bag on a peg nailed to the bamboo when she was bitten. She did not see the snake. But later events, including envenomation of the victim and capture of the snake, proved that it was a spectacled cobra (Naja naja). Pautram had gone to sell vegetables and was not expected back soon. Sukhmoti’s children sent a message to Pautram through a neighbour who also sold vegetables in the same market. The neighbour forgot to convey this very important message to Pautram. He finally remembered after 2 hours. On hearing that his wife had been bitten by a snake Pautram hurried home and reached around 4 p.m. During this time Sukhmoti had drunk copious amounts of water. She was finally taken to the hospital – the Anjali Health Centre in Lahrod, Pithora.
After reaching the hospital Pautram rang his neighbour and requested him to catch the snake and to bring it to the hospital. The neighbour, who was a devotee of Lord Shiva, agreed to catch the snake only if he was given an assurance that it would not be harmed. On getting the assurance he captured the snake from inside the bamboo and tied it to a stick. It was then taken in a procession to the hospital with hundreds of people following.
Sukhmoti was brought to the hospital 5 hours after she was bitten. Her vision had started blurring and she could not recognize anyone. Her tongue was paralyzed and she could hardly breathe. She was administered 6 vials of ASV along with supporting drugs and medicines. She was kept in the hospital under observation for seven days. After she was discharged she visited the hospital regularly for the next three months for treatment of the necrosis which developed in the bite affected area.
Once Sukhmoti ceased to be in a critical condition, the snake was released in a dry river bed. The story could have ended tragically for the bite victim or for the snake but this is a rare case where both survived.
Written by Dev Kumar Vasudevan (as narrated by Priyanka Kadam)
Binod Yadav is a 15 year old boy, studying in 8th standard in a Hindi medium school, Prathmikshala, in his village Chindauli , P.S. Patewa, Chhattisgarh. His father is a farm laborer, and his mother does odd jobs (maid and farm laborer). Binod has a younger brother. They live in a two roomed cemented house with electric supply. Their food is cooked on firewood. His father, Baisakhu Yadav, around 31 years old, collects wood 2-3 times a month from the nearby forest area. Baisakhu Yadav works for a rich farmer. He has a Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna (RSBY)card, a scheme for families below the poverty line. As per this health policy, a family can use the RSBY card to avail of health related treatments upto Rs.30,000 per annum. Each family owning a smartcard has to pay a premium of Rs.30 per annum to avail this facility.
Under this scheme a family can use a maximum of Rs.10, 500 to spend on treatment in case of a snake bite. Being illiterate, Baisakhu panicked at the thought of the extensive paper work that would need to be done to avail this facility. Moreover it was paddy sowing time and his boss offered to give him a loan instead.
BITE INCIDENT (23rd June 2014) : Binod was lying on a patch of grass in a farm and watching a video on his mobile. When he moved his hand, a snake resting in the grass bit him on the third finger of his left hand. As soon as Binod was bitten, he ran home and immediately tied a tourniquet around his wrist. Binod was not able to identify the snake and hence one was not sure if it was a venomous snake bite. He was brought to Anjali Health Center in Lahrod, Pithora for treatment, which was 20 kms away from his house. By the time he arrived at the hospital, he was showing signs of envenomation. He stayed in the hospital for three days. The author met Binod after one week of the bite incident when he came to Anjali Health Center for dressing of the local area.
MEDICAL HISTORY: Three vials of anti-venom, pain killer, anti-allergy, and antibiotics were administered to Binod. He was having regular food, and passing normal urine. Necrosis developed in the bite area four days after the bite. He had intense pain for six days, and is now losing sensation on the tip of his bitten finger. He feels pain in the bitten area only if the finger is pressed with a pair of tweezers. Slight cramp like sensations are also felt in the affected finger.
Written by Priyanka Kadam
Name: Sunil Vijay Sahasrabudhe; Age: 43yrs
Victim’s background: Sunil V Sahasrabudhe is married and has an 8 year old daughter. He runs a small printing business.
Bite Incident : This is the story of a snakebite incident that happened right in the hustle and bustle of a busy city. On 30th Oct 2013, Sunil was returning from Badlapur on his scooter. The roads were dug up for widening purposes and as he approached Newale Village (between Dombivli & Ambarnath MIDC), he realized there was a serpentine traffic. The only difference was that no one was honking. It was around 7pm and getting dark. He got off his scooter and went on foot to investigate the reason for the traffic jam. Right in the middle of the road was a grey morphed Spectacled Cobra hooded and hissing at the milling crowd.
Sunil is an animal lover and wanted to ensure the snake is safely moved to the side of the road. He started plodding the snake to the other side of the road. The snake panicked and started slithering towards the now slowly moving traffic on the other side of the road. Sunil again tried to move it away from harms way and the snake by now slithered under his scooter. In a few minutes, the snake was on top of the scooter. Sunil managed a head catch of the hooded snake and carried it close to a bush to release it.
In his inexperience of handling snakes, he didn’t realize how he was risking his life by slowly loosening his grip during the release. The snake barely nipped at the index finger of his left hand. When he realized he was bitten, he released the snake in the bushes and immediately asked an onlooker, Chandrakant to help him get to a nearby Public Health Center (PHC).
It took them 20 mins to reach the PHC. Anti-venom was not available at the center. They administered a tetanus injection and Sunil was on the road again, headed to Thakur Memorial Hospital in Dombivli as advised by his family doctor, Dr Amit Kulkarni. Though this was a private hospital, they had a ready stock of anti-venom. Ironically instead of immobilizing the patient, Sunil had to climb stairs to get to the casualty ward on the first florr. where he was ultimately attended to.
By this time he was showing signs of envenomation with rapid swelling of the local bite area. Sunil’s vision was deteriorating and he was fast slipping into an unconscious state. Sunil was immediately admitted in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit and was on the ventilator for the next 24 hours. He was later shifted to the general ward and discharged after 5 days of care under Dr Verma. A total of 14 vials were administered to treat Sunil. The cost of treatment was close to Rs 90K.
This incident though stressful for the entire family has not left Sunil paranoid about snakes. He admits it was his own wrong doing that landed him in trouble. Since the bite, there have been 3 incidents when snakes have entered his house in Dombivli. He chooses to leave the snake alone and slither away on its own. His daughter is being raised to love animals including reptiles but also be respectful and keep a safe distance from wild animals.
Written by Priyanka Kadam.