This story is from Dhanyaha village, PO Ilahipur, District Hooghly in West Bengal. Dhanyaha is a non-descript village having houses that are bunched together surrounded by fields from all sides. The houses are built of cement, mud and bricks. The outer wall of every house has cow dung cakes pasted on it to be dried and later used as fuel.
Haradhan Ghorui, a 48 year old farmer lives with his large family which is supported by a small tract of land and some cattle. On 27th August 2015, as per routine, he went to work in his field at around 9.30 a.m. The paddy was growing well. Haradhan proceeded to clean the weeds that had lodged itself on the periphery of the field. A small section needed some ploughing and while he was doing this, accidently put his foot into a puddle. Something bit him and when he lifted his leg, Haradhan was horrified to see a Russell’s viper attached to his foot. He yanked the viper from his leg and thought this was the end of his life. He would die very soon.
This thought made him angry and vengeful. He used a small cloth that was swung around his shoulders to capture the snake and bit the snake across its body in three different places. The vicious attack had the snake’s intestines spilling all over. He then bundled the snake and returned home with the snake in tow.
When he narrated the incident to his family, they immediately took him to Singur Rural Hospital. The doctors examined him and since there were no signs of envenomation, Haradhan was given a tetanus injection and admitted in the hospital for further symptom and investigation.
The snake died a day after it got injured and was packed into a polythene bag.
The doctors on the ground consistently conducted the 20WBCT test to ascertain the clotting effect and urine test to check the creatinine and urea levels (which is found to be high in a viper bite scenario). This test was repeated 4 times every day and each time the result was negative. Haradhan was kept in the hospital for the entire week and discharged on the 7th day of the bite. Apparently he had suffered a dry bite. A situation wherein the snake bites but does not inject venom into the victim’s body. Haradhan was asked to report to the hospital in 2 days which he did. The total cost of treatment was Rs1500.
The author met Haradhan on the 13th day of the bite. While narrating the incident, Haradhan mentioned that he was saved as he had bitten the snake and killed it. The victim in fact was lucky by chance! He could have been bitten by the snake when it was being attacked.
A majority of people in rural India are semi-literate and have grown-up conditioned with myths regarding snakes.. In this backdrop, while it is heartening to see that Haradhan survived a bite from a highly venomous snake, his survival can easily get linked to countering a venomous snakebite by biting the snake back. Such incidents therefore need to be monitored and victims counselled on the real reason for their survival.
A myth that takes root is difficult to dispel. The more people volunteer to spread awareness about snakebites in their communities, the more are the chances of survival…for humans and snakes!
Written by Priyanka Kadam
Fenil Virendra Dhedia is a 20 year old B.com graduate living in Borivli, Mumbai. He is the youngest amongst his siblings. Following his father’s footsteps, Fenil works in a garment shop that sells children’s wear.
Bite incident: Every year Fenil’s employer takes his staff for an annual outing. On 25th June 2015, thirteen staff members were taken to The Great Escape, a resort situated 20 kms from Virar station on the outskirts of Mumbai. The property is situated in a scenic backdrop with boundary walls on three sides and one side open to the outgrowth that spreads into the valley below.
The resort has 2 swimming pools with water slides and games. That day Fenil had been in the pool for a while and was crossing over to go to the other side. Right on the cobbled ground a juvenile Russell’s viper was also crossing the path. Fenil stepped on the little snake and in a reflex action it bit him on the big toe. It was like an ant bite at the beginning. The resort’s staff caught the snake and was proceeding to relocate it when they were told about the bite incident.
The staff asked Fenil’s employer to immediately rush him to a hospital. The group went to a health centre nearby and Fenil was administered a tetanus and pain killer injections. He was then taken to the Shatabdi Hospital situated between Borivli and Kandivli stations. The snake was bottled and taken along for identification purposes.
The bite incident had occurred at 3 p.m. and Fenil was admitted to Shatabdi Hospital after 2 hours.
Thanks to the world of social media, news about Fenil’s unfortunate encounter spread like wild fire within the snake rescuer community via Whatsapp.
In faraway Beed District, Sarpmitra Amit Bhagat, from Maharashtra Police had been bitten by a bamboo pit viper just two days ago and the author had helped him with details of doctors for consultation purposes. He was lucky it was a dry bite. The memory of the bite was fresh in his mind and when he read about Fenil on Whatsapp, he immediately contacted the author. It was around 6.45pm.
We quickly swung into action, got in touch with Mr Virendra Dedhia, Fenil’s father. We reassured him about his son being in safe hands and also presented the facts about his being bitten by a highly venomous snake. Fenil was complaining of severe pain in the leg and abdomen. He was administered 15 vials of antivenom. Mr Virendra wanted to shift Fenil to another hospital but was advised to not do so as the hospital had the necessary facilities in case of an emergency.
A CT Scan of the abdomen was done on 26th June at 4 a.m.. Fenil remained in the hospital for the next 5 days.
Fenil was extremely lucky to have suffered no tissue damage in the local area. The venom of the Russell’s viper has a hemotoxic effect on its victim. This means there could be internal bleeding and haemorrhage accompanied by intense pain and local area necrosis. But in Fenil’s case, there was minor swelling in the local area that remained for 2 days and then subsided.
The author kept in touch with the victim’s father inquiring about his well-being. Fenil was discharged from the hospital after 5 days. Within 10 days of the bite, Fenil resumed work and suffers no after effects of a venomous snake bite. He has been advised by the doctor to wear cotton socks for a few days.
Today is the thirtieth day since Fenil was bitten by the juvenile Russell’s viper. As we type this story, Fenil is enjoying a movie with his friends.
Written by Priyanka Kadam
Victim’s Background: Jayanth Krishnappa is a 14 year old boy studying in the 9th grade. He lives with his parents and elder sister in Malur, in the Kolar district of Karnataka. His father works in a factory and his sister studies in junior college. His mother is a home maker.
Bite incident: Jayanth ‘s favourite game is cricket. He and his friends play the game in a sports field close to his house. On 14th June 2015, around noon, just like any other day, Jayanth along with his friends was playing cricket. His friend hit the ball hard and Jayanth went to retrieve the ball that had got lodged in the bushes. A Russell’s viper that was foraging in the bush got disturbed and bit Jayanth’s right foot just above the toes. It was 12.30pm.
Jayanth quickly rushed home and informed his parents about the bite. The local area started to swell in a few minutes and Jayanth started experiencing intense pain. Krishnappa rushed his son to Manipal Hospital in Bengaluru. They reached the hospital 3 hours after the bite incident. A total of 12 vials of ASV were administered to Jayanth. He stayed at the Manipal Hospital for 5 days. The cost of treatment there was Rupees One lakh ten thousand (Rs 1,10,000).
Krishnappa has now shifted his son to the Srinavasa Hospital in Hoskote. Jayanth is receiving treatment from Dr Nagraj, a snakebite expert. Since this is a hemotoxic bite the necrosis is spreading to other parts of Jayanth’s foot. It will be a while before the wound heals.
Written by Priyanka Kadam.
Photo credits: Dr Nagraj, Srinivasa Hospital, Hoskote.
Name : Aakash Laxman Dhangad; Age: 9 yrs
Father: Laxman Dhangad; Mother: Manisha; 2nd brother Roshan (7yrs); Youngest brother Amit (5yrs).
Address: Patoni Pada, Yeor Village, Dist & Taaluka: Thane
Date of bite : 21st April 2014.
Incident : Aakash is a 9 yr old boy studying in 4th Standard in a village school in Patoni Pada in the Yeor Village, Thane. His father Laxman Dhangad is a construction labourer and mother is a maid. He has two younger brothers. On 21st April 2014, Aakash along with his friends was playing in an open patch near his house. It was around noon time. The kids saw a Russell’s viper chasing a rodent. Aakash went a little too close and got bitten by the Russell’s right below the knee of his right leg. The snake later disappeared under some construction pipes.
Aakash ran up to his aunt who was babysitting the young boys. Aakash was taken to the civil hospital in Thane. He reached the hospital almost 1 hour after the bite incident. By then he was displaying severe signs of envenomation. His bite wound was continuously bleeding with progressive swelling. He developed Ptosis (involuntary drooping of eyelids) and had trouble breathing. Aakash was put on life support and administered Anti-venom. Aakash remained in the Civil Hospital for 5 days and later shifted to Sion hospital. His leg developed severe necrosis and hence he was forced to remain in the hospital for the next 2.5 months. He was later discharged and was home bound most of the next few months. Aakash’s parents spent close to Rs 80K to save his life. The growing cost of treatment made Aakash’s parents try out herbal remedies suggested by a local healer. His wound had festered and needed immediate medical attention. A local NGO by the name Nisarga Vidnyan Sanstha reported this incident to SHE and sought help for the victim. This was 10 months after the near fatal bite that Aakash had sustained.
Snakebite Healing and Education Society (SHE) helped with the treatment and Aakash underwent skin grafting surgery in March 2015. Since his wound was old and a few areas had negligible blood circulation, the healing process took another 2 months to heal.
Written by Priyanka Kadam
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.