Snakebite incident as shared by field reporters Bikash Bharali and Assistant Journalist, Samim Ali from Golaghat, Assam
Twenty-five-year-old Bikash Bharali from Golaghat, Assam sent me a WhatsApp message sometime in July 2018. He was reporting a snakebite death of a father-daughter duo. Bikash had been following Snakebite Healing & Education Society’s work on social media. He was aware of our efforts to document victim stories. This is his contribution towards the cause of minimizing snake bite deaths in our country.
A family of seven lived in the slums near the railway tracks off Telihaal near Golaghat railway station. Thirty-eight-year-old Gohoni Ganju, the head of the family, was disabled and eked out a living as a tutor and by doing odd jobs. His wife, Rakhi worked as a maid. They had two daughters and three of Rakhi’s relatives also lived with them.
It was the night of 11th July, 2018. The monsoon had set in. The two roomed thatched hut did not have electricity. No one saw the Bungarus niger (Greater Black krait) enter their dwelling. Around 11.30 p.m. when all the family members were asleep on the floor, the krait bit Gohoni on his back. In a reflex action he shook the snake away which fell on his six-year-old daughter Dipanjali (Munmi).and entwined itself on her leg. As she moved, it bit her on the right hand a little above the wrist.
If only the family had used a mosquito net, perhaps they would have been saved from this tragedy.
No first aid was given to the victims at home. The 108 ambulance services were contacted and by 12.30 a.m. the father and daughter were brought to the District Hospital, barely 5 kms away. While being transported to the hospital, both the victims were in a conscious state. Gohoni was experiencing respiratory distress and frothing from the mouth.
Gohoni lost consciousness a little before reaching the hospital (as informed by the people accompanying him). The attending doctor at the hospital declared him brought-dead.
Dipanjali was admitted to the ICU where she too breathed her last within 15 minutes of admission as shared by her mother, Rakhi. No post-mortem was conducted on the dead bodies. Both the bodies were carried back home. Since it was night time, the family and neighbours waited for dawn to cremate the dead father and daughter. A few hours after the bodies arrived home, the family members saw some air bubbles coming out from Dipanjali’s right nostril. Seeing this, they sought the help of a local quack, who couldn’t be of any assistance.
Gohoni is survived by his wife and two-year-old daughter, Rupanjali, an aging mother-in-law and teenage brother-in-law and a sister-in-law. Rakhi earns approximately Rs 4,000 per month which is not enough to support the family of five.
The district hospital apparently does not maintain proper records of snakebite cases. While total number of vials stocked in various departments within the hospital was close to 50, the antivenom was hardly used as shared by a nursing staff. As per the staff most snakebite cases which arrived at the hospital were either of non-venomous snakes or those who were brought dead on arrival.
Profile of the field reporters:
Bikash Bharali – Bikash has a regular job in a financial firm and in his free time he visits villages in his area to spread awareness regarding snakes, and how to live with them without getting bitten. Since the area where he lives has wide-spread faith healing practice, Bikash conducts awareness programs in local communities in his free time. He also teaches the communities how to manage and stabilize a snakebite victim while waiting for an ambulance to take them to the nearest hospital.
Samim Ali : Samim is an Assistant Journalist from Golaghat, Assam and mostly assists in covering news bytes in the Golaghat district. He informs Bikash wherever he comes across any snakebite incidents in the district. The pictures of the deceased victims and family have been shared by Samim.
Ranidevi is a 23 year old widow living in Ledhgai village in Latihar District, Jharkhand. Ranidevi was married into an agrarian family about four years ago. Little did she know that she would become a widow with a 5-month-old toddler to take care of very soon.
It was the month of July 2014. Ranidevi’s husband, 24 year old Mukhi Singh Khaiwar, was tilling his field to sow maize. It was around 12 noon. As he went about doing his work, Mukhi didn’t see the Russell’s viper in the bushes next to the fields. The snake was disturbed and Mukhi was bitten by it. Initially the family resorted to faith healing. 30 minutes into the ritual, the family realized his condition was deteriorating and they rushed him to the Mission Hospital in Barwadih, approximately 5 km away from Ledhgai village.
At the Mission Hospital, Mukhi was given a tetanus injection and referred to the Mission Hospital in Tumbagada, Satbaruah. No details are available about the treatment received at the Tumbagada hospital. He was later referred to the Government Hospital in Ranchi.
Mukhi’s condition deteriorated in the next few days and he died on the 8th day of the bite.
He was survived by his 5-month-old toddler (now 3.5 years old), his widow Ranidevi, his younger brother and his mother. The family is struggling to come to terms with his untimely death.
This case ended in tragedy only because there was no tertiary level hospital close to the victim’s village equipped for snakebite management. .
Snakebite Healing & Education Society is documenting this and many other tragic cases where victims lost their lives not because they were bitten by a venomous snake but due to lack of treatment. Snakebite is a treatable disease. If there were hospitals in every district that was equipped to treat snakebites and other life threatening diseases, stories such as Mukhi Singh’s would never have a tragic ending.
Written by Priyanka Kadam.