‘Am I going to die?’ she screamed at Alex and Carlos. Alex tried to reassure his wife but could tell by the look on Carlos’s face this was a dangerous snake.
‘Sarah don’t move; we must keep you still,’ Alex said as he stripped off his shirt. ‘I am going to put a pad on the bite and tie it tight to keep the venom in one place. Carlos, hold my torch.’
‘Should we not take her to the village and cut out the venom?’ Carlos suggested.
‘No. I remember from my army days, snake bites must be immobilised above and below the joint. We’ll do that first before we move her, so find a couple of branches.’
The two men spent around ten minutes making the ankle immobile, and then they carried Sarah between them back to the headman’s hut, remembering to pick up the dead snake. The chief took one look at the snake and shook his head. All the men went outside to talk over the problem, while the women folk tried to make Sarah as comfortable as possible.
The chief called the snake the ‘Green Dragon’. Five people had been bitten in his village by green dragons in the last ten years. Four died within a week of being bitten, but the fifth was lucky as there was anti-venom in the health post at the time.
Alex immediately inquired about anti-venom but the headman said that the health post was not in use just now. The last technical nurse returned to Iquitos six months ago and had not been replaced. Alex was becoming increasingly upset. What was happening to him? His world was falling apart. Everyone he loved was being taken away from him. But no! It was not going to happen to his lovely Sarah.
‘Where will there be anti-venom?’ he shouted at the chief. ‘Maybe, in Mazan. Sometimes if they have had lots of snake bites the supply will be finished. They only have two or three doses given to them, every three months, by the health authority in Iquitos. They say it costs so much. We lost a young boy last year. He was only four years of age. When we took him to Mazan there was no anti-venom left. I think they don’t put much value on a village boy’s life. He was my sister’s son, a beautiful boy. To her, he was everything,’ the headman remembered sadly. His head bowed.
Alex put his hand on the chief’s shoulder as he realised that he had been rude and insensitive to him. To these villagers, death from accidents, malaria, snake bite and the like, was a common occurrence, but it didn’t mean they had no feelings.
‘We can use the radio to see if there is any anti-venom in the clinic in Mazan,’ the chief suggested, recovering his composure.
‘That’s a great idea. I’ll go and speak to Sarah, while you do that. How long will it take for us to get back to Mazan?’ Alex asked Carlos.
‘From here with the current, about forty-eight hours. We can leave at dawn,’ Carlos said.
‘Sixty hours from now! We’ll have to think of something else. You go and see what the chief finds out,’ Alex instructed.
‘Sarah, how do you feel?’ Alex said softly as he crouched down beside his wife, gently holding her hand.
‘My ankle is a bit sore and there is an itchy feeling creeping up my leg; it’s about the middle of my shin now. Alex I’m frightened.’
‘Don’t worry. We’ll get out of this OK. Trust me.’ Alex bowed his head and silently prayed for his wife. He knew he needed a miracle. Tears trickled from Sarah’s eyes. She could see the look of love and desperation on her husband’s face.