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Snakebite victim twice lucky

During the CMCA integrated health patrol in November 2018 to Wangawanga village in the Middle Fly District, a 28-year-old woman walked up hurriedly and told me she was bitten by a taipan snake on her left ankle. On hearing this I told her to lie down on the platform built by the villagers for other special occasions and asked for a snakebite bandage. The villagers didn’t know if they had a snakebite bandage in the village, so I called the councillor to bring the snakebite bandages which had been previously issued by the CMCA Middle and South Fly Health Team. This woman has a previous history of being bitten by a death adder in early 2018 when she developed signs of envenomation and was referred to Obo Health Centre and administered death adder antivenom and recovered.

When the Councillor’s wife rushed over with the bandages we applied them firmly to her leg, right up to the groin. We also made a call to the OTDF field base to help transport the patient to the aid post. Within five minutes the vehicle came to assist. Although the patient was stable with no signs of envenomation, we recruited the bystanders to help lift her on the back of the vehicle, where she lay flat and with no movement.

Once the patient was taken to the aid post, we called the other Community Health Worker, Lilian Giawasi, who admitted her using a snakebite admission chart provided during my last patrol. Lilian was instructed to make all snakebite observations hourly and do an initial 20 minutes Whole Blood Clotting Test (WBCT) to ensure there were no signs of envenomation until we returned from the patrol.

The WBCT was done with no signs of envenomation. The patient was kept at the aid post and observed until the next afternoon. At 4pm the next day, we did a slow release of the bandage from the groin down to the knee level and observed for another one hour. There were still no signs of envenomation, so we released the other bandage from the knee level down to the ankle and kept her for another hour. At 6pm another WBCT was collected which clotted within 20mins indicating that the patient had not been envenomated. Based on these findings the patient was discharged home. A follow up visit was done over the next two days and the patient was stable.

The Wangawanga villagers are very appreciative of the snakebite bandages that were issued by the program and the quick response we provided to prevent toxins from spreading. It was also a lesson learnt by the villagers that the snakebite bandages kept at the village are to help minimise or prevent the spread of toxins to the body and bandaging of limbs was a lifesaving procedure; but only if is done properly and early, prior to taking the victim to the nearest health facility.

CMSFHP is funded by the CMCA portion of the Western Province People’s Dividend Trust Fund through Ok Tedi Development Foundation (OTDF). The program is managed by OTDF and implemented by Abt Associates.

Good News Story written by Belinda Yamkeyok, Health Extension Officer.

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