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On Nag Panchami, snake bite victims speak about their experiences

On the occasion of Nag Panchami today, a few Mumbaikars relive their unpleasant encounters with snakes

Dombivali resident, Manish Pimpale who rescues snakes (which are trapped) in the Kalyan-Dombivali area was ironically, bitten by a snake while on a trip with friends to Ghopar, a village in Maharashtra.

An 8.5 feet long Indian Rock Python which was rescued last year from Wadala. Pic/Shadab Khan
An 8.5 feet long Indian Rock Python which was rescued last year from Wadala. Pic/Shadab Khan

Pimpale says, “Two years ago, while I was on a backpacking trip with friends we were camping in Ghopar village in an open field when a Saw-scaled Viper bit a finger on my right hand.

The bite felt like a blade cut. I am a snake rescuer and so thought of taking some local treatment as I did not want to spoil the trip for my friends. But my friends insisted that I go to a hospital and seek treatment there.”

A cobra that was rescued from a city mall, earlier this year
A cobra that was rescued from a city mall, earlier this year

Bitten by a viper
Since they were in a village, where only a local doctor was available and it was around 9 pm, Pimpale’s friends rushed him to a nearby hospital. “I rescue snakes and we had a fire burning, so I could see the snake and was able to recognise which species of snake bit me. This greatly helped the doctor at the hospital who gave me an effective anti-venom,” says Pimpale.

An artiste paints an idol at a Powai temple. Pic/Sameer Markande
An artiste paints an idol at a Powai temple. Pic/Sameer Markande

The 30-year-old who teaches school and college students in the Kalyan-Dombivali area about snakes says, “It was a December night and so it was very cold, my hand was bleeding and paining after the bite.

My friend Ashish who drove me to the hospital was with me the entire night when I was kept under observation. The poison had not spread and so I was discharged after two days.”

Prabhu Swami
Prabhu Swami

Pimpale who continues to rescue snakes says, “During my rescue operations so far I have never been bitten by a snake. It is a little bit of an irony that a person who deals with snakes on a daily basis was bitten by one when he was unaware. I have this connection with snakes and so two years after the bite, I am not afraid but continue to work closely to rescue them.”

Manish Pimpale
Manish Pimpale

As a snake rescuer, Pimpale is usually the one who is called when snakes are spotted in various places in the Kalyan-Dombivali area. Talking about snake rescues, he says, “You need to be very calm and catch the snake by its head and then put it in a snake bag. I then release the snake in a forest nearby.”

Beach bite
For D Bunty Rao, a lifeguard at Juhu Beach; the monsoon and snakes go hand in hand. On an August evening in 2011, Rao and some of his fellow lifeguards were patrolling the beach when people alerted them to a snake in the water.

D Bunty Rao Ajay Panikal
D Bunty Rao and Ajay Panikal

“I ran into the water to tell the people to get out. The snake who was very tired after battling the waves bit me on my leg. Some of my fellow lifeguards caught the snake and put it in a box. I felt as though a thorn had gone in my leg. We called the snake rescue team who came and took the snake,” says Rao.

Though he did not have any vomiting or nausea, the symptoms associated with snakebite, Rao’s fellow lifeguards took him to Cooper Hospital for a check up. He says, “The doctors kept me under observation overnight. The pain subsided by itself and I was discharged as we later found out that the snake was not venomous.”

Snakes at the beach are a common occurrence and after being bitten by one, Rao and his team at Baywatch Lifeguard’s Association are more careful. He says, “We wait for the snake to come to the shore so that we can catch it with ease. After catching the snake we put them in a box and then leave them at Juhu Garden.

There have been a number of times when unsuspecting visitors to the beach have been bitten by snakes. We rush them to Cooper Hospital for first aid and treatment. So far, no one has been bitten by a poisonous snake at the beach, thankfully.”

Of Ophidiophobia
Ajay Panikal suffers from the fear or phobia of snakes or Ophidiophobia. The Andheri resident was bitten by a snake one monsoon evening when he and his sister were returning from school.

Panikal was in the fourth standard when the incident occurred. “Snakes were common in the area and I was returning from school with my sister when I was bitten. It was July, so it was raining I felt something poke my leg.

When I looked down I saw a huge snake hissing and my leg was bleeding. My sister tied up my leg with a handkerchief and we came running home,” says the now 54-year-old.

His mother alerted the neighbours and they rushed him to a doctor nearby as he started sweating profusely. Panikal says, “The doctor immediately rushed me to Sion Hospital where I was kept under observation and then given the anti-venom. I was hospitalised for three days and then sent home after I felt better.”

Panikal says, “After the snake bite, my sister and I started being more careful on our way to and from school via Sahar Road which at that time was mostly forest area. I used to catch and kill snakes as a child which I stopped doing post the bite.”

Rescue operation bite
Prabhu Swami, a snake rescuer was bitten by a Russell’s Viper on October 29, 2011. The then 19-year-old was on a rescue operation at Powai as part of a Scouts and Guides Camp when he was bitten on his right leg. “I was rescuing a snake from a watchman's room when a stray dog suddenly barked. This startled both the snake and me.

In self-defense, the snake attacked. I started sweating profusely and vomiting. My friend who had a bike rushed me to Bhagwati Hospital. There I told the doctor that I was bitten by a Russell’s Viper. He asked me how I knew the name of the snake, I told him that I rescue snakes. I was then treated and given the anti-venom,” explains Swami.

The Borivali resident got a cross bite i.e. the snake’s fangs bit his jeans and leg, so the venom was not a lot and a mild dose of the anti-venom was good to help him recover. He says, “On my way to the hospital, I told my friend to keep talking to me so that I don’t lose consciousness. The place where the snake had bitten me had boils and was bleeding. I was in the hospital for five to six days.”

Swami is now very careful when he rescues snakes. He says, “After the bite, I ensure that there are no stray animals or people around when I start the snake rescue operation. There are many lives at stake during a snake rescue the people around, the snake and mine. So far since the bite, I have rescued as many as 1,000 snakes in and around the city.”

When a snake attacks
>> Snakes are most likely to bite when they feel threatened, are startled, are provoked, or when they have been cornered.
>> Snakes are likely to approach residential areas when attracted by prey, such as rodents.
>> Regular pest control can reduce the threat of snakes considerably.

To dos after a snakebite
>> Call emergency services or get to a hospital.
>> If possible take note of the snake’s appearance so you can describe it to get the right anti-venom.
>> Move away from the snake to avoid another bite.
>> Be as still as possible and avoid panicking.
>> Remove clothing, jewellery, or constricting items as bites from venomous snakes can cause rapid and severe swelling.
>> Cover the bite lightly, and then leave it alone.

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