Woman survives deadly snakebite in Cumuto

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The swollen foot of victim at the Sangre Grande District Hospital. –

When you’re going in the bush, make sure you wear the appropriate attire.

That was the biggest lesson a 43-year-old woman from Arima learned when she was bitten by a mapepire snake while visiting family in Cumuto on October 29.

The woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, went to family lime at her uncle’s property in Cumuto as was their custom. Around 5pm, she got up from her seat in the gallery and stepped outside wearing slippers to go to a car parked nearby and felt a sharp, piercing pain in her left foot.

“It was really painful and, when I looked back, I saw a snake and immediately knew I had gotten bitten by the snake. At that point everybody started to scream and carry on and one of my uncles was able to kill the snake.”

There are four species of venomous snakes in TT – two types of mapepire snakes and two types of coral snakes. A few of her uncles recognised the snake as a mapepire but they did not want to tell her and alarm her at the time.

She recalled an uncle putting the dead snake in a clear plastic bag but no one wanted to hold it. Annoyed, she grabbed the bag and took it to Sangre Grande Hospital, which was about 50 minutes away.

At the Accident and Emergency Department, she said the staff did not treat her case as an emergency. A nurse took her vital signs and a urine sample and saw blood in her urine but did not show any concern or signs of urgency.

She was there for about 90 minutes when her name was called to do some blood tests and an ECG (electrocardiogram) to evaluate her heart.

“While sitting down there waiting for the results, which was probably another half hour or so, I started to bleed through my mouth – my tongue and the gums. At that point they started to pay real attention to me.

“When the nurse saw that, three or four doctors came. They put me on the gurney and they administered about six vials of anti-venom before they took more blood from me (for tests) because it was not clotting.

“By the time all that going on, the foot was just getting bigger and bigger and I was in plenty pain.”

She told Sunday Newsday she had heard the word mapepire before and knew it was a type of snake but had no idea they were dangerous so initially she was not afraid.

The dead mapepire snake which was taken to Sangre Grande Hospital. –

“When I got bitten, I just had a sense of calm. I knew I was going to the right place (the Sangre Grande Hospital) for some anti-venom and expected to be discharged to go to work the next day. Even when my mouth started to bleed I wasn’t panicked at all, I guess because I didn’t know it was that dangerous.

“A lot of people said that helped as well because my heart wasn’t pounding and pushing the venom through my system faster.”

The doctors explained the snake’s venom had heamatoxins which disrupted blood clotting and inhibited platelets. She received six more vials of anti-venom and began to throw up violently.

After midnight she was placed on Ward Five where she was not allowed to move from the bed. She was told one of her kidneys was damaged.

“To be honest, on the ward I got really good treatment. I remained in hospital for approximately 12 days. The medical team was very attentive. I have absolutely no complaints about the treatment I got on the ward.”

She expressed sincere gratitude for the Ward Five medical team who cared for her, including Drs Martin, Williams, Emmanuel and Basdeo and the nursing staff. She said she was depressed and wanted to leave, but their care made the stay easier.

She said they carefully monitored her heart, blood and leg which led to her being given six bags of plasma to allow her blood to clot, as well as strong antibiotics to treat her foot.

Now, although still at home on sick leave, the swelling in her foot has reduced considerably and her kidney has healed. There is still some tissue damage to her foot so she could not walk on it for very long.

Despite her suffering, she was glad she was bitten rather than any other family member.

“I am one of the younger persons who was there as all of my uncles and aunts are 70 and older, and there was a baby there. So I think I took one for the team. If that had happened to any one of them, I’m sure it would have been a different story.”

She also had some advice for anyone bitten by a snake. She said they should try to keep calm; take it seriously and seek medical attention immediately; if they were certain the snake was venomous, head directly for the Sangre Grande Hospital as that was where most antidotes for poisonous snakebites were kept and pray.