“Please help…. My kid has been bitten by a snake.”
The cry of helplessness from a house in Vattakkayam in Panathur, Kasargod, rent the air around 8:30pm on Tuesday, July 21.
It jolted many in the neighbourhood and some people stepped out of their own homes, but no one dared enter the place from where the cries emanated.
The plea for help came from the residence of a teacher couple who had returned to their native Vattakkayam from Bihar and were in quarantine since July 16.
Jinil Mathew of Keechira house lived just next door. The CPM Vattakkayam branch secretary and Panathur unit convener of the Head Load and General Workers' Union had arranged the house for the couple and their one-and-a-half-year-old child in quarantine.
He stood near the fence of the couple’s house and asked them what happened. When they told him that the baby had been bitten by a snake, he did not hesitate and went straight into the home.
The baby was standing near a window when it was bitten. The snake was still lying at the window. Jinil immediately killed it. The snake perhaps climbed onto the window through the firewood stacked attached to the wall below it.
Jinil put the dead snake in a plastic cover, took the child who was in a state of shock and headed out of the home.
Meanwhile, he had called a friend Binu who is an ambulance driver. Binu, who was in the nearby town helping with COVID activities, reached the spot in minutes. In fact, the ambulance had already reached by the time Jinil had stepped out of the house with the kid.
The Kanhangad district hospital is located about 44 km from Vattakkayam. As the ambulance rushed to the hospital, Jinil called the medical officer Asif and a panchayat representative to inform them about the child. Occasionally, the baby's parents would also call him to enquire about her.
Everyone was worried for the child because it had been bitten by a viper, a very poisonous snake.
But, in the midst of all this commotion, the baby stayed calm. It clung on to Jinil showing no distress; it did not even cry. However, its hands had started swelling.
The ambulance reached the hospital in less than half an hour. Since the medical officer and the panchayat representative were involved, a doctor and nurses were waiting for the child when the ambulance arrived.
The doctor saw the dead snake in the cover and said it was a very poisonous species and that the child must be admitted to the ICU. But, since the Kanhangad district hospital did not have a coronavirus ICU, he advised that the baby be taken to the Pariyaram Medical College. Binu rushed the ambulance to Pariyaram. The baby was still innocently laughing in Jinil's lap even though she was interacting with him for the first time.
The ambulance reached Pariyaram in about 45 minutes and a medical team was waiting for them at the medical college.
‘You have come from Kanhangad with the child who was bitten by a snake, right?’ asked the doctor.
Jinil realised that while he was rushing the child to the hospital, there were many people who had worked behind the scene to help rescue the child by ensuring smooth coordination.
Seeing the child, nurses came running and enquired if she had eaten anything. The baby was then administered medicines.
‘I have a baby the same age. Don’t take any tension,” a nurse said, comforting Jinil.
“I felt pained that it is these nurses who usually find themselves at the receiving end of many people’s anger and frustration. They were running around to take care of the child all through the night,” said Jinil, 45.
The child was given the antidote and it soon came out of danger. The next day, the child was back to normal, much to the relief of the parents, people’s representatives and the medical employees.
Jinil then went back home after taking a bath and using sanitiser. He stayed alone in a room in quarantine.
But the baby was found to be COVID positive on July 23 and Jinil immediately moved to a quarantine centre voluntarily. And there is a reason for that.
‘I have three children and a wife at home. One of the two daughters has passed the SSLC exam and the other is in the fifth grade. The youngest is a son, who is five years old. Whenever I am home, he climbs on my back and plays. But he was upset when I was staying alone in the room. He would come and knock on the door. That's why I decided to move to the quarantine centre,” said Jinil. His wife and children are now in home quarantine.
Meanwhile, when no one was ready to take the parents of the snake-bitten baby to Pariyaram, two youths from the neighbourhood — Visakh and Alan Rixon — came forward. They took the parents to their daughter in a car.
Since the child had COVID, the couple was also put in quarantine. But there are complaints that their results have not come even though their samples were taken for testing 3-4 days ago.
Many people had come forward to help the baby and the parents after coming to know of their plight. The teacher couple are hoping the test results will come soon to at least end their anxiety.
Jinil, however, is not worried about COVID. “On that night, doctors told me that a delay of even 10–15 minutes could have endangered the baby’s life. The worry of COVID is nothing compared to the tension I experienced that night,” he said.