This four-year-old boy was bitten on the face by a spitting cobra whilst he slept during a safari in South Africa.
Despite surviving, the boy was left with severe facial paralysis which doctors feared could be permanent, however, following months of rehabilitation, most of the paralysis has been reversed.
The four-year-old Dutch boy who was not named was on a safari in South Africa with his family when he was bitten on the face by a Mozambican spitting cobra (Naja mossambica) at an undisclosed date.
The boy was saved by doctors in South Africa using anti-venom and 12 days later he was flown back to Holland where he was treated by Doctor Willem Rinkel.
Rinkel said in a paper he published regarding the boy’s case that: “The snake bit him just under his right eye which he would have lost if he wasn’t asleep.”
When the boy arrived at Rinkel’s hospital his right cheek was paralysed, the muscles in his lower eyelid were not working and the swelling in his face was causing him a lot of pain.
Rinkel diagnosed the boy with partial facial paralysis which was caused by the neurotoxins in the snake’s venom.
The Mozambique spitting cobra has a neurotoxin that rarely kills its victims but often blinds them and leaves them with disabilities and disfigurement. The snake normally spits its poison into the eyes of its prey from a distance of up to 3 metres (9.8-feet).
The doctor explained that two incisions were made under the bite to drain the fluid that had built up under the boy’s skin.
The draining reduced the swelling in the boy’s cheek but it also resulted in the skin hardening and him losing some sensitivity in the area.
Rinkel and the medical team began ‘mime therapy’ which involves massages, breathing techniques and various muscle contraction exercises to help the boy regain movement in his facial muscles.
The doctor reported that within seven months the boy had regained the ability to open and close his right eye and after 21 months the boy’s face had regained its symmetry.
Rinkel reports that the boy made an almost complete recovery and the case is testament to the effectiveness of using ‘mime therapy’ in snakebite victims.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported in 2017 that 1.8-2.5 million people are affected by snake bites every year resulting in between 94,000-125,00 deaths.
Many of the people affected live in rural communities with poor access to health care and rehabilitative treatment often leading to long-term disabilities.
Rinkel believes that the successful rehabilitation of this four-year-old boy shows that long term damage caused by snakebites can be alleviated using effective rehabilitative treatment.
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Story By: Peter Barker, Sub-Editor: James King, Agency: Newsflash
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