Posted by Sushant Wagley, as told to him by Dr. Jhapat Thapa
This evening, a six-year old boy was brought to Bayalpata Hospital after being bitten by a snake on his right leg. The patient, his father, and another relative walked for 3 hours to reach our hospital for treatment. He was our first overnight emergency patient since we opened the hospital with outpatient, emergency, and delivery services four days earlier.
While snakes are common in this area of Nepal, most are not poisonous. However, they are also greatly feared because the ones that are poisonous can kill quite rapidly. Our patient’s relatives were quite nervous about the bite because of the narrow window of treatment time if the bite were poisonous.
Upon the family’s arrival, we admitted the child as an emergency patient. We then administered an IV to stabilize him and gave him a tetanus injection to prevent infection. We wrapped his leg with a bandage to reduce movement of his injured leg. Due to the uncertainty of whether the snake venom was poisonous, the child stayed at our hospital overnight for observation. We monitored him carefully – if his vital signs deteriorated, we would quickly administer the anti-venom treatment. His father, alongside Nyaya health providers, tended to the boy throughout the night. Fortunately, he was discharged after a final examination that deemed him healthy.
This six-year old is not the first snake bite patient that Nyaya has treated. A past case involved an elderly woman who was bitten by a poisonous snake. Her family brought her to our Sanfe Bagar clinic after a four-hour walk. However, she was not as fortunate as the six-year-old boy and unfortunately passed away at the clinic during the night.
Since poisonous snake bites can kill within a few hours, the large distances patients need to travel to reach an appropriately equipped health facility can be deadly. Nyaya Health is one of the only providers of anti-venom in the district of Achham. Thus, patients who live more than 3-4 hours from our site are likely to die from fatal snake bites. One of the best ways to reduce such deaths is to properly equip government sub-health posts with anti-venom and training on how to properly treat all types of snake bites.