It's only a snake bite: He packs the puff adder and drives himself to help

2011-01-14 00:00

POTCHEFSTROOM — A deputy director in the North West Education Department drove himself to hospital with his one healthy hand on Wednesday after a puff adder bit him at a farm school.

Jean du Preez even caught the snake after being bitten, put it in a sports bag and stopped at a vet on the way to the hospital to identify the type of snake.

From his hospital bed in Medi-Clinic in Potchefstroom he told how he and a colleague were visiting the Taaiboschbult Primary School outside the city at about 8 am, when children came running out of a classroom, yelling that there was a snake.

“We ran to the classroom. The snake was lying curled up under a cupboard.”

Du Preez fetched a sport bag from his car to capture the snake. He grew up in the Caprivi district of Namibia and has been handling snakes since he was a child, he said.

“I’m not particularly scared of snakes,” Du Preez said.

That’s why he didn’t hesitate to take a broom into the classroom and pushed it behind the snake’s head.

“I was just about to grab it by the head when it bit me. So I grabbed it by the tail, pulled him closer, threw it in the sports bag and closed it.”

One of the snake’s fangs sunk into Du Preez’s left forefinger, while the other caught his middle finger.

Du Preez put the sports bag with the snake inside on the back seat of his car and drove himself the 23km to Potchefstroom.

“My hand started swelling immediately. Later it became numb and I couldn’t change gears any more.”

Du Preez stopped at the Potchefstroom Animal Clinic, where he asked that a vet identify the type of snake. One of the vets, Dr Nicolize van Rhyn, said Du Preez appeared surprisingly calm, and asked them to please confirm that it was only a python.

“However, it was a young, adult puff adder,” said Dr Bertus Nel, another vet at the practice.

“They are cytotoxic, which means the venom attacks the tissues. If you’re bitten and you don’t get help soon enough, you could lose a limb.”

According to Nel, it’s the first time that someone walked into their practice after being bitten by a snake.

Du Preez put the bag back in his car and left the animal clinic to go to the local Medicross, where he was referred to the Medi-Clinic. Du Preez drove himself there as well.

“I just steered and changed gears with my one [healthy] hand.”

Staff and doctors were waiting for him at the Medi-Clinic and immediately started giving him anti-venom. When Beeld visited yesterday afternoon, his entire left arm was still severely painful, but the swelling had started to ease after the sixth bag of anti-venom. He spent the night in the hospital.

The department of nature conservation fetched the snake from the Medi-Clinic — where Du Preez had left the reptile in his car.

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