I was called up to the out-patient department a few evenings ago to see a little boy who “may” have been bitten by a snake. His parents weren’t sure. He did have a swollen right foot and an itchy area on the top of his foot that looked bruised, but there were no definite fang marks, only a small scratch. He looked okay, and his lab work was normal, but snake venom can take some time to manifest itself, so I convinced his parents to keep him for observation overnight. I wrote some orders to get him admitted, expecting that in the morning I would be writing orders to send him home.
A little after midnight I got a call from the nurses - the little boy had stopped breathing! I jumped on my motorbike, and raced to the hospital a half kilometer away. After placing a small breathing tube into his trachea, we started snake anti-venom. (It is available in India and covers several common snakes for our area.)
We do not have any ventilators so we taught his mother, father, and uncles how to squeeze the little bag that pushed oxygen into his lungs. One, two, three, squeeze – not too much, not too little. Don’t stop. Don’t take a break. They took turns through the night and for the next 36 hours, breathing for their son.
The effects of the venom eventually began to wear off, and we were able to get the breathing tube out. The toxic venom, however, caused the skin to die, on the top of his foot where he had been bitten. He required two operations: one to take off the dead skin and clean the infection and the other, several days later, to place new skin taken from his thigh over the wound on his foot. He did great, and to the great joy of his family, they were able to take him home alive and well.
His parents had seen that their son was given a second chance at life. We thank God, our Life-Giver. We look forward to seeing them for check-ups in the days ahead.