English Version-Translation

Snake bite

They arrived at around ten in the night with the lady who was bitten by a snake. The venom had already weakened the victim. “How fresh is the bite?”,I asked them and they replied-“she was bitten at around five in the evening”.

I was stunned! They brought her to the hospital five hours after the snake bite. The first few hours are critical and can decide between life and death in the case of snake bite victims. It can even be considered as golden hours.

“What were you doing till this moment?” I enquired rudely.

“We took her to a famous healer. They were neutralising the venom in her blood and allowing it to ooze out.”

Even though I tried to remain calm, I could not resist mocking, “This cannot be called neutralising but rather aggravating. The venom did not ooze out but into the blood.Why did you bring the patient here if you have already neutralised the venom?”

They replied that once the venom oozed out, the patient began vomiting. The healer said that the vomiting was caused due to gas trouble as the patient was observing a fast. He advised them to either take her home and give her some food or take her to a hospital and get an injection for vomiting and gas trouble.

What was hilarious is that they believed the healer and took the patient home and gave her Pathiri and chicken stew to cure her gas trouble! As her vomiting became serious, her mother became agitated and demanded to take the girl to a hospital, thus she was brought here.

She was bitten by a viper and blood was not clotting. She had a very low chance of survival. Administering an anti-venom would not work as it was already too late. I discussed the seriousness of the issue with a couple of bystanders. They must have realised the blunder they committed so they did not raise any questions. Usually, when such warnings are given by the doctors, bystanders either demand to take the patient to another hospital or ask for a guarantee of survival.

Anyway, through sheer luck, the victim survived. Her kidneys did not function properly for a couple of days but recovered without dialysis. At the time of discharging, I requested them to visit the healer once again-not to manhandle him, (which is ofcourse is a privilege reserved for the doctors of modern medicine!), but to tell him - never “treat” a patient like this ever again.

This is not an isolated event. I still remember a patient, whom I met while I was working as the R.M.O of Malankara Hospital (Kunnankulam), who was “referred to the hospital” only when he was extremely affected by the venom that he could hardly open his eyes. Moreover, it was not for treatment, but to be taken back to the healer after the patient was re-energised through a glucose drip!

Now let us move on to the secret behind the healing techniques of our traditional venom healers. Most of the snake bite victims in our parts of the country are actually bitten by non-venomous snakes. All bites from a poisonous snake need not necessarily envenomate the victim. Once you take such victims to these healers, they will start their “healing”. The patient will be given some traditional medicines orally or applied externally for neutralising the venom. The healer “neutralises” the absent venom of the non-venomous snake. The patient, his bystanders and the healer are contented. Rarely do cases of victims being bitten by venomous snakes arise and such cases are sent to a hospital after few hours of drama. Though the initial hours are the most crucial, it is never available to the doctor of modern medicine.

It is certain that the healer who treated the aforementioned lady was not aware of the basics of treating snake bites. Indeed, the healer didnt understand that her abdominal pain and vomiting was a result of the venom and not fasting. Curiously, people still run to these type of healers and hoaxes like fools.

I am aware that our society won’t change after reading one post, but being a social animal, I am fulfilling my duty to the society.

[independent translation of the original write-up of Dr.Jamal]

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