Snakebite

2011 July 10

Dear readers,

I'd like to share a short story about a neighbor boy who survived a bite from a Sand Viper.

One morning, I walked out to talk with our head mason for the wall project, but he was not there. "He want out to the field," the other workers said, "because his son was bitten by a poisonous snake." "When did he get bitten?" I asked. "An hour or two ago," they said. I wondered what kind of a snake it was, how much poison was injected, and how the boy was doing.

I went back to the house and referenced the Village Medical Manual on snakebites for any ideas. We gathered charcoal and bandages. I took off to grab a worker to show me the way to the field. Just then I learned that the boy was already at home. So I went to the mason's home and found the boy, maybe 18 years old, moaning on a mat with concerned people all around. They had made a tree-fiber tourniquet. There was no rush, no sense of urgency, just a feeling of "Oh well, we'll see if he lives or dies."

In this culture, the belief is that if you die of snakebite, you must have had unforgiven sins. Thus, a snakebite will often force at least a confession of wrong from the victim.

We prayed a short prayer for God to intervene and to save this man's life. Probably two hours had passed since the bite, yet I applied charcoal to the region of the bite anyway. Then we proceeded to apply the vicious current of the motorbike spark-plug coil to his leg. The lead wasn't long enough, so I straightened a metal bucket handle to extend the distance a bit. The poor boy could hardly handle the pain of the shock, but a correct application of this technique has saved many lives around the world, depending on the type of snake. We prayed that God would reward our efforts.

From there we proceeded to the hospital where the boy was given a generic anti-venom. Generally it is better to identify the snake and apply the specific anti-venom. But this is all the hospital had, so we tried it.

By evening, the man still had some symptoms (soreness, headache, etc), but was gradually feeling better. But the next day, he was fine to go home. Not long thereafter, he returned to the fields to work.

The locals say this was a Sand Viper. I have seen and killed a number of these small, but beautiful snakes. They are black and white and gray and brown, sort of in a plaid pattern. They are also deadly snakes. Whether or not this boy got the full dose of venom I know not, but I know the pain he was experiencing and observed some symptoms of poisoning. In any case, I believe that God answered our prayers for healing and that He honored our efforts. We did everything within our own power and knowledge and He supplied the rest. Praise Him!

Jonathan