One of the most beautiful graces that we can receive from God is the grace of saving the life of our fellow brother or sister. We at Jivhalla Assumption Social Centre [JASC] were given this wonderful blessing when we had the grace of being instrumental in saving the life of a teenage tribal girl who was bitten by a poisonous snake and had slipped into a life threatening coma. When the helpless and distraught family members of the girl came to us for help, we, the sisters of the Assumption, reached out promptly and got the girl admitted to Cardinal Gracius Hospital, Vasai after administering the girl appropriate first aid. The doctors at the hospital gave the girl the necessary antidote and succeeded literally in snatching the girl from the jaws of death.
Snake bites are a fairly common occurrence among the marginalized tribals of Vasai because of their very rudimentary dwellings and their close ties to farmland and forest. Besides many of them live on the outskirts of villages where electricity is not available or the service provided is unreliable and patchy. During the monsoon season, in particular, when it can rain torrentially for days and the grass grows fairly tall in the fields and the edge of pathways, the possibility of being bitten by a venomous snake becomes a very real risk. When an individual is bitten, the tribals hesitate before taking him or her to a hospital afraid that they may not be able to afford the cost of treatment. Treatment at government hospitals is usually free of cost but it is often the case that these hospitals are ill equipped and lacking in both well qualified personnel and basic medical supplies. This unfortunately results in unnecessary loss of life.
Narration of the Healing Action
Sarika Bala Dandekar, the 16 yr old daughter of a poor and illiterate couple Bala and Meena, a student studying in the XI grade was bitten by a venomous snake one evening in 2018 as she was returning home through the fields after attending remedial [tuition] classes at the home of a kind villager who used to teach her free of charge every evening to help her cope with her lessons in college. It was way past sunset and the path to her home was poorly lit. In fact, she lived on the outskirts of the village where a number of homes still did not have electricity.
Describing the events of that fateful evening, the mother of Sarika recalls that she and her husband were startled by a loud cry and the sound of someone falling with a thud very close to their home. When they rushed out to investigate they discovered to their horror that it was their own daughter who was sprawled unconscious in the tall grass nearby. At first, they did not understand what had transpired, but when they lifted their daughter and took her into their house, they discovered by torchlight that their daughter had been bitten repeatedly by a snake. There were fairly deep bite marks where the fangs of a snake had pierced her ankles and calves in at least four places. Much later when the girl was shifted to a hospital the doctors had no doubt from the size and depth of the bite parks on her feet that the snake that had bitten the girl was a Russel’s Viper, one of the most venoumous and aggressive snakes found in India.
The girl’s bitten limb was not immobilized with a make shift splint as recommended by first aid manuals, and neither were the parents able to shift her to a hospital with minimum movement as the protocol on treating snake bite victims suggests. When the girl was taken to a government hospital some distance away from the home of these tribals, the authorities there refused to admit the girl realizing the seriousness of her case and their inability to help her in any meaningful way. To cut the long story short, the girl was finally admitted to Cardinal Gracious Hospital, where she received immediate treatment. This not withstanding she remained unconscious for close to three days fighting for life. The girl was in a position to be discharged from hospital only after two weeks.
The bill for the treatment the girl had received worked up to quite a big sum, but I met those responsible at the hospital, especially the Public Relations Officer and impressed on them the need to waive of the fees for the treatment because of the near destitute family situation of the girl and her parents. After some persuasive convincing the hospital authorities agreed to treat the girl free of charge. They even went to the extent to providing the girl follow up treatment [she needed to be operated thrice on her leg because of some infection that had developed around the wounds that the bites had caused.] Sarika took some time to recover completely. Thanks to the timely help she received and the physiotherapy, counseling support that the Sisters of Jivhalla, in particular, provided her, she is now hale and hearty back on her feet, none the worse for the entire trauma that she went through.
The role of Jivhalla Assumption Social Centre
Sarika’s story is just one of the many occasions when the poor tribals of the Vasai region have been helped by the committed and untiring work of the Sisters and staff of the Jivhalla Assumption Social Centre among them, administering to their needs and attempting to empower them so that they may be able to live a more dignified life. I must say that the government also intervened and provided electric pole and connection to that area. Thus, it is a collaborative effort which saved her life and assured her future with friendship and love.
Jivhalla Assumption Social Centre has over the years earned a reputation among the simple folk who live in the neighbourhood as the place to go to when faced with crisis and difficulty. We the sisters and staff of the Centre may not always be able to solve all the problems of the people or change the pitiable conditions in which some of them live immediately, but we believe that small gestures and sustained work over a period of time goes a long way in fostering the integral welfare of the people and bettering their lives.
The girl is rehabilitated well and she continues her studies. Her parents are ever grateful to the service JASC renders to the villagers and especially to their family. After the girl got cured, the mother also was treated in the same hospital for brain tumor and continuing treatment from there. They are ever grateful to Cardinal Gracious Hospital and its staffs for their timely intervention and rehabilitation. Mother said, “I felt lot of love, care and friendship from many which I never expected” The family is grateful and appreciative beyond words could express. Yes, the supportive therapy with love and friendship was beneficial in ensuring a positive outcome and satisfactory recovery.
As the world battles the Covid pandemic; our people here have been hit extra hard. Many are struggling to make ends meet and ensure that their children have sufficient to eat every day. We’ve tried to do our bit and we are sure that with the help and support of good friends and benefactors we will be able to help our people in a small and yet not insignificant way. Jivhalla Assumption Centre is committed to ushering the kingdom of God not so much through words but by building bonds of unity, caring and love.
Sr. Deepti Srankal
JPICRA Team Member, Indian Province