2 Black Snakes

An old man in one of the nearby Maasai villages got up during the night to go outside the house to relieve himself. In the flickering light thrown by the glowing coals of the dying cooking fire he saw a large black snake twisting its’ way out from under the cow skin covered bed. He grabbed his walking stick that leaned against the wall next to the bed and with a lucky blow killed the intruder crushing its’ head. He didn’t wake up any of the other occupants of the house as he exited the igloo shaped cow dung covered house. On returning to take his place on the bed, he didn’t see a second big black snake coming out from under the bed. As the old man stepped near the bed and prepared to lay down, the new aggressor struck him on the ankle injecting what must have been a massive dose of venom. The old man cried out in pain and woke his wife and the children sleeping on the opposite bed. The snake was not to be seen having disappeared back under the bed or having exited the house by way of some small opening in the wall.

The ankle and leg of the old man quickly swelled up and he was in serious pain. The people of the village carried him to the small clinic here at Olbalbal where they injected a shot of antihistamine but had no proper antidote for snakebite. At first light, the people loaded the man, now in very serious pain and with his lower leg greatly swollen, onto a rented land rover and took him to Karatu. That town is an hour and a half away and is the nearest place having the possibility of getting snake antivenom at a privately run hospital there. On their arrival at Karatu, they were told that there was no snake bit antidote and they would have to travel another three hours to reach the big hospital in Arusha. The relatives with the now seriously suffering man boarded a bus and arrived at Salien hospital in Arusha at the sun was going down. The man was immediately injected with anti-venom but it was too late. He died in the early hours of the next morning.

Snakebite is a big problem in the bush where there are no refrigerators to keep the anti-venom needed when snake bite people. In addition, some snakebite require medicine specific to particular venom. Snakebite victims are taken as quickly as possible to the big hospitals but it is often too late.

images 1Small black snakes are often fed milk in the houses of the Maasai. There is a belief that somehow these small creatures are connected to the grandfathers and grandmothers that have died. The big black ones are another proposition all together.

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