I Almost Died of Snake Bite
By Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda
It was almost sunset. The groundnuts field was just behind the granary, a stones' throw from our dara. It was that time of the year when the field were bursting with pumpkins, magaka eminzwa aye/exotic cucumbers, roundnuts/nyimo, fresh mealies and groundnuts. It was that time of the year when we could fill the stomach with nutritious, healthy natural food. We carried our chikafu-tin, or lunch boxes to schools filled with these goodies.
Well, the containers were mostly empty lactogen tins, which could be rusty if kept in damp places for long!
Anyway, I took my hoe and basket and happily went to dig some ground nuts. Before I coud even put my basket down, I felt this sharp pain on my foot, pachiziso. I screamed, "Ndarumwa kani Amai! Amai!" My whole leg was numb and I could barely feel my feet and only a throbbing pain. People came out running to rescue and find out why the piercing scream.
"Could it be the black big spider? No she would not cry like this? Tarisai gumbo racho/Give a closer look at the leg? Its a snake! Oh, maybe its chiva (type of snake), maybe shato (cobra), bungu muridzo?". All kind of snakes were mentioned, and I felt I was already dying, with all those snaky scary stories. The neighbours were called to assist with the diagnosis and in finding the solutions.
Mother immediately took charge of the situation, the moment she realised that I could lose my leg or my life. "Mai Peter, give us rwodzi (string made from mupfuti bark), and tie tight around her thigh so that the poison does not go to the heart", she instructed her daughter in law. The HEART? My heart missed a beat.
"Edie, run kwavaMutsvuku and bring him with you. He knows traditional ways and herbals for snake bite, and can help. He is also our local catechist at the church. His help is important especially now". My sister did speed off and dissappeared into the darkening night to bring the village specialist for such matters. VaMutsvuku was popularly known as vaBhaghadhi (not sure where his name came from or what it means).
My mother's kitchen was immediately converted into the Emergency Rooms. "Warm some water on the fire, and lets hold a warm towel over the leg until vaMutsvuku arrives", another instruction to a neighbour who had just arrived. The neighbour heard the screams and had came to find out what was happening.
In no time vaMutsvuku, a smallish village elder with authority, arrived. He was all business and serious. Now the kitchen was getting dark, the pain was searing and the crowd was swelling. The local para-medic demanded that a lamp be brought. We had no paraffin in the house, so they had to get twigs of mupangara tree which gave a good bright flame and which lasted. This was good enough for the purpose.
A quick check on my foot, which was now so swollen. The bite marks were visible and the colour of the skin on that spot was reddish. "Inyoka iyi/Its a snake", he concluded as a matter of fact. "We have to drain the poison. But with this TYPE OF SNAKE, you better rush her to hospital", he said it slowly and knowingly. He took a razor bade, and did small cuts (kutema nyora) on the spot, started to suck the blood out and rubbed some herbs. It was so painful. The leg was now swelling and swelling.
The moment the hospital was mentioned, someone was dispatched to Magaya Primary school, almost 2 kilometers away to ask for a car for hire. This was was the only car in the village! Before we knew it, the car was outside, and the teacher was promised that he will be paid when mother sells her maize or when one of my brothers came home, or whenever she gets the money ~ pavanenge vaiwana mari yacho.
"Yes, these are our children and we are one family", he said. I was carried into the car, someone lifting the body. My special para-medic vaMutsvuku gently hold the leg, now with its bandage of sorts on the foot, and the tight knot ye-rwodzi on the thigh.
My mother simply grabbed her wrap (zambia), and borrowed her daughter in law's tommy shoes, which she was wearing (aya ane buri pa-side). My aunt and our neighbour Maiguru mai Dzotso, jumped into the car, because my mother could not go alone with me to hospital. There was not time for a splash or a bath. It was a real emergency. The car needed a little push, and it came to life. Within an hour we were at Murewa District hospital.
I was asked to narrate what happened, and my mother also gave the history. I was admitted immediately. The nurse was very harsh on my mother saying I should immediately have been brought to hospital, what if I had died. She just said "yes nurse, I am a widow and I did all I can".
I wanted to scream back at the nurse and tell her that I have the best mother, who has done all she knew and could do to save my life. I wanted to tell her that she is going to sleep hungry today, that she has no money on her and she has even borrowed the tommy shoes on her feet. I wanted her to know that tonight she will sleep on the hospital verandah with no blanket, but covered only with that wrap on her shoulder, because she does not want me to die! My leg was in pain and my heart was hurting, and inwardly I was happy that I was alive and in hospital.
I stayed for 3 weeks in hospital. My grade teacher came to visit me, as did the headmaster and other relatives. The women from the church came, and they did a special collection one Sunday and paid off the teacher's for his transport service.
When I went back to school, I was feeling special in some way. For a month, I was exempt from school work and could do light duty like carrying books from class to staff room, dusting tables etc.
To this day, I do not like snakes. Worms or anything crawling reminds me of snakes and the snake bite. In reflection, I am just glad that in my life I was surrounded by loving family and neighbours, caring and supporting each other at all moments. Its important to have para-medics in our communities, and health care services should really be accessible. I almost died of snake bite.