Snakebite victims live to tell their story

Main Stories, National

The National, Tuesday 09th April, 2013


LAST Tuesday, between 6pm and 7pm, 15-year-old Sim Pala was following her mother, Mabari Pala, to church in Karekodobu village, Inland Rigo, Central.

The lively young girl skipped down the stairs, but unknown to her, danger of the deadliest kind awaited her in the grass outside: a deadly Papuan Taipan.

The snake sunk its fangs into her left foot, and she ran screaming to her grandfather’s house, about 100m away.

“She went and sat down on the platform,” her mother told The National at her hospital bed.

“She told her grandfather that she had been bitten. After 10 minutes, she was vomiting and excreting, and later, began to cough out blood.

“We put her in a wheelbarrow, put her in a dinghy, and rushed her down the Kemp Welch River, where we could get a ride on a truck.

“We have roads leading to the village, but they have been washed away by floods.

“We put her in the wheelbarrow again, and pushed her down to Boregaina aid post, where she was checked.

“We rang the ambulance at Kupiano health centre, and paid the ambulance K150 to take us to Port Moresby General Hospital, where we arrived at 2am on Wednesday.”

Thanks to the quick actions of her mother, father Pala Pala and other family members, Sim was quickly pumped with Papuan Taipan anti-venom and is alive to tell the story.

Toketi Kutu, a mother of five from Kelekapana village in Aroma, Central, arrived in Port Moresby in the nick-of-time, after being bitten on the left foot by a Papuan Taipan in her garden at 2.30pm last Wednesday.

Her son, Kala Kali, who kept vigil at her bedside since she was rushed into intensive care unit, said her treatment was delayed because of transport difficulties.

“There was no transport,” he says.

“We arrived at around 9pm at the nearest aid post. By then she was unable to talk, unable to see.

“We hired a double cabin vehicle, arrived in Port Moresby at 2.30am on Thursday, where we took mum to the Port Moresby General Hospital.”

Visiting Australian emergency medicine specialist, Dr Simon Jensen, said 12 hours was far too long for a Papuan Taipan patient to get treatment.

“Usually, after 12 hours after a bite by the Taipan snake, the patient can be very weak already,” he said.

“She was very close to dying, actually, just another few more hours.”

Abraham Louis, 32, from Tutubu village in Cape Rodney, Central, was bitten by a Papuan Taipan on March 28 and was lying on the ground when discovered.

Fortunately, although quite a distance from Port Moresby, transport was quickly arranged and he has recovered.

His father, village councillor Louis Gobe, said Abraham was the third snake bite victim in the family, including himself, and the government should treat this as a matter of life-or-death.

“As a ward member, I’m not happy about this non-recognition of the snakebite problem,” he said.

“There are a lot of snakebites out there are people are always having a hard time.”