She was only 17 months old and standing on the doorstep of her traditional home, when then Mozambique spitting cobra tried to crawl in. She stretched out her leg and moved the snake with her foot. According to her mother she was bitten on the top of her foot.
Zamo was bitten at approximately 10am in the morning on the 29th March 2009. I have been to their homestead several times and believe me, it’s far from the nearest road and access to public transport. It took her mother about 3 hours to get her to the nearest rural clinic. She insists that she did not visit a traditional healer and applied no bandage or tourniquet.
At the clinic they waited for several hours before they were seen by a nurse. The nurse had no idea what to do and referred them to a second clinic. Same thing there. They referred her to the nearest government clinic. Her mother became very concerned when the wound just became worse.
Zamo’s mother brought her to the reptile park (1), 17 days after the envenomation, desperately looking for help (April 15th). She brought Zamo’s medical card with and I was shocked to see what this child had been through. She had received no medical treatment at all, except for Panado (very basic pain medication for children), a tetanus shot and some orange-coloured suspension – not sure what it was.
I took her to the clinic in Big Bend (small town southern part Swaziland) but when the doctor called the police, accusing the mother of child abuse, I just walked out. I took her to Good Shepherd hospital which is funded privately and also by government. Zamo was admitted and spent close to 3 months.
On a daily basis, her wound was washed with Betadine liquid and new bandages. No pain medication is administered prior to this procedure. It is terrible to watch. She continued receiving Panado.
I tried to find someone to help and somehow Dr. Sean Bush saw a photo on the internet and a few days later (May 07) he flew to SD to come and see Zamo. Sometimes its humbling to see a grown man cry, guess it was his first visit to a hospital in Africa.
Sean decided to take Zamo to the US for further treatment. Zamo continued to receive daily wound care and fresh bandages. She flew to the US on about the 23rd May 2009.
Zamo spent approximately 6 months in the US with Sean and his family. She was seen by paediatricians, orthopaedic surgeons and plastic surgeons. Received all her shots and nutritional supplements. When she arrived there was no bone infection and surgery was scheduled.
On the 5th June, a plastic surgeon placed a synthetic tissue (Integra) on the top of her open wound.
30th June the skin grafting took place. Physiotherapy daily.
Zamo was supposed to fly back home on the 30th July, but they noticed a lot of scar tissue causing contracture. They decided to keep her for another 3 months before surgery to correct contracture – 28th September.
Zamo came back with A’me on the 4th December, 8+ months after envenomation.
Zamo is walking fine on her leg but tends to walk on her heel and still has a bit of contraction. The corrective surgery made very little difference. I have not seen her for about a year now.