Snake venom and your eyes

I woke up that Saturday morning feeling a bit edgy.  “There is a snake in the house,” I announced to the hearing of all around me. “Where is the snake? asked my niece who was visiting. ”I don’t know, I just have a strange feeling,”I replied.  I was momentarily startled by my statement. It didn’t stand to reason and I couldn’t really explain why I made the statement. Soon we both forgot all about it.

About a few hours later, I heard a yell from the kitchen, “Snake! snake uncle! There’s a snake in here!” I rushed down to the kitchen to see what it was all about.  It was my niece. She was rattled and her words came out in torrents. She explained that as she pulled out the lowest drawer of the kitchen cabinet a snake wriggled out and took cover amongst the pile of yam tubers next to the cabinet. “Are you sure you actually saw a snake?” I asked, incredulous.  “Yes uncle, I did,” she replied and to remove any doubt, added, “It is about two feet long and brownish.”

Bolstered by her confidence, I decided to conduct a search. I hate everything about snakes. I just can’t stand them. But now I had the onerous task of fishing it out! I went for a long stick; stood at a safe distance and started pushing the yams apart. I froze as the snake suddenly emerged, raised its head, stiffened its trunk and before I could say “Jack Robinson” spat at me. It went straight, like a projectile, to my face and the venom would have gone into my eye but for my glasses which intervened! I regained my composure just in good time to deal a deadly blow on the snake as it made a dash for the little hole under the door.

“Uncle, what would have happened if the venom had entered your eye?” my niece asked. “Let us go into the living room, sit down and have some coffee,” I requested.  She soon came back with the coffee and impatient as ever, shouted: “Please, tell me about spitting snakes!” Ignoring her outburst I requested for the bowl of fruits on the dining table.  From the pack, I took out an apple. She was smart enough to read my mind. “Uncle I hope you are not about to tell me about Adam and Eve and the Apple?”“Not quite, except to tell you that snakes have always been dangerous from the beginning of time,” I said jocularly.

“Only three species of snake can spit or eject their venom in a fine spray which is aimed at the eyes of an enemy. It is used only when threatened, as defence mechanism. The spray is incredibly accurate and goes directly into the eye of their attacker if he is within a distance of about 2.4 metres (8ft) from the snake. The venom may cause blindness if it gets into the eyes. If the venom gets into your eye, it burns and causes an excruciating pain. ”

“But why do they target the eyes and why are they nearly always accurate?”My niece asked again. How do I explain this? I found a suitable answer as I watched her take a bite of the apple in her hand. “Bimbo shut your eyes,”I commanded.  “Now, with your eyes closed, take another bite of the apple.” She did. “Why didn’t you miss the way to your mouth?” I asked. Think about it and you will have the answer. I knew my answer wasn’t accurate but that was the best I could offer at the time. Just as I was about to excuse myself, Bimbo’s friend called from the garden. She went out to join her leaving me in peace.

Three days later, a young man was led into my office having had a confrontation with a snake about two hours before. The snake had spat into his left eye.  The eye was shut it was hurting very badly he said. He had washed his eye with water at home as first aid measure before coming to the hospital. I commended him for this; sat him on the examination chair and instilled some drops of topical an-aesthetic agent followed by a drop of fluoresce in dye into the affected eye.  A few seconds later he opened the eye. I wasn’t surprised to see that his cornea was ulcerated. He was commenced on relevant treatment. Within a week the eye settled down. He regained his sight fully. My mind went to Bimbo. I wished she were around to see what a snake can do!

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