Medic saves snake bite man

2013-11-20 00:00

A MAN who stopped breathing and had no heartbeat after he was bitten by a black mamba was brought back from the brink of death by a skilled paramedic last week.

The acting provincial Emergency Medical Services (EMS) district manager for Ilembe health district, Sbusiso Sangweni, said the Mandeni man was walking in the forest near his house when he was bitten by the snake.

Sangweni said the man, whom he would not name, only knew that he had been bitten by a black snake.

“He was taken to Sundumbili clinic by relatives after he started feeling ill. His condition deteriorated rapidly and paramedics were called to transport him to Stanger Hospital. Ambulance crew assessed the patient, realised they needed further medical assistance to manage his condition and called for back-up,” said Sangweni.

When the call for back-up came, Sangweni left the office and rushed to the clinic. He said he met the ambulance en route to Stanger Hospital. “When I assessed the man he was unresponsive and in a critical condition. I treated him but his condition deteriorated further.”

He said the man had stopped breathing and had no pulse, so he began CPR and gave him drugs to assist him.

“Fortunately this worked and the patient regained a pulse.”

Given the description of a black- coloured snake and the rapid and severe symptoms the patient had, paramedics and doctors concluded that the snake was a black mamba.

Sangweni said mambas have a neurotoxic poison that affects the transmission of brain impulses along the nerves to the body, which results in paralysis.

“These include paralysis of the respiratory muscles which are responsible for breathing, meaning that the air stops moving in and out of the lungs,” he said.

Mamba anti-venom was administered before the man was taken to Inkosi Albert Luthuli hospital where he recovered. He was transferred back to Stanger Hospital for further monitoring on Thursday.

By late yesterday he was still weak in hospital, but in a stable condition, said Sangweni.



Expert gives advice

SNAKE expert Mark Enslin has warned people against wasting time trying to identify snakes when someone has been bitten.

He said doctors can identify “culprit” snakes without them being described by the victim.

Black mambas produce neurotoxic venom that is rapidly absorbed, blocking the transfer of the nerve impulse from the nerve tissue to the muscles, he said.

“Other snakes like the puff-adder produce cytotoxic venom, which destroys both the tissue and blood cells. Snakes like the boomslang produce haemotoxic venom, which interferes with the blood clotting mechanism, leading to uncontrolled bleeding,” said Enslin.

He warned bite victims to go straight to the hospital instead of clinics.

“Anti-venom is not always kept in clinics so the best thing to do is to stay calm, don’t chase the snake and don’t stress about identifying it because doctors are able to do so by studying the bite area,” said Enslin.

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