Little Boy has Snakebites on his Arms

Mduduzi Gcina – a 4 year old boy.

The family of this little boy came to me for help on the 18th February.

On the 16th December he was bitten on both arms whilst sleeping (time to be confirmed but was told it was 10am). The wound is typical of a Mozambique spitting cobra bite, substantial but superficial necrosis – with the characteristic “dam”. His mother took him to a clinic in the area but was referred to a hospital in Nhlangano on the 17th December as they were unable to assist. On arrival in Nhlangano they were once again referred to Mbabane government hospital. He arrived there on the 18th December

Mduduzi spent 5 days in hospital before his father took him away; they apparently wanted to amputate his arm. He was on a drip for a day, but received no antivenom and pain management was Panado. Can you bloody believe it! Do these doctors really not give a damn?

Since then he has received no medical assistance. That is 9 weeks of pure hell. The typical skipping legions are present on his left arm; the wound basically extends from his shoulder to his hand. He has lost muscle mass in his left arm/shoulder as he can obviously not move it at all. It is just too painful. His right arm is not as badly affected. Wonder if the snake did not bite him on his right arm first? Often, the first bite is not as serious – less venom injected? How did this child manage all these weeks without pain medication? It is insane – can’t imagine myself as a parent watching my son suffering like this.

Clifton and I took him to a private clinic where he is receiving medical treatment for the first time in many, many weeks. His father refuses to let him stay overnight as he is afraid they will amputate his son’s arm. My mother is going to talk to the father today to try and persuade him that it would be better if Mduduzi could stay in hospital, it will also be much less expensive as we have to transport him every day from his homestead to the clinic and back and pay the daily consultation fee which is rather expensive.

The family has NO money. The father is extremely sick and obviously not able to work. When we got back from the clinic I gave the family lunch. Mduduzi ate so much he started to vomit. We cleaned him up and then he asked for another plate of food! I have never seen such a small child eat so much, he must have been starving!

Feb 20

Mduduzi is doing much better. Daily wound cleaning and bandage changes that are very similar to torture, but the wounds are starting to heal.

Sitting with Mduduzi whilst his bandages are changed is heartbreaking. He is so afraid of anyone who even looks like a nurse or doctor he starts wetting himself. He tries desperately to get away from them and will even bite when restrained. I can’t imagine how he has coped with the pain these last 2 months. The only way we can get anything done is to bribe him with a bottle of coke and promises of a big plate of food. He loves meat, rice and gravy. He will sit at the restaurant at Nisela and eat until his tummy is as round as a ball. He had custard for the first time in his life yesterday…think we have a new favorite!

Feb 24

We went to collect Mduduzi for treatment this morning…Found the father so ill he could not get out of bed, he is obviously HIV positive. We loaded Mduduzi AND his father and took BOTH to hospital.

The Dr. changed Mduduzi’s bandages, apparently he is ready for the skin transplant but they gave the father some tablets (look like Panado) and sent him home. I honestly do not think he will be alive by Friday.

If Mduduzi is ready for the graft it might have to wait for a few days but I hope the mother will allow us to take Mduduzi for treatment whilst she handles the father saga.

I am going home to give my son the biggest hug ever….

The Doc took a blood sample from Mduduzi after he saw the father; there is a possibility that he is also HIV positive.


Feb 27

Mduduzi is HIV positive.  To live through these moths of pain, only to learn you are HIV positive. How cruel and unfair.


Mar 08

Mduduzi’s father is still very ill but he does is managing to sit up unaided. He still refuses to eat any meat but does eat a little green veg and emasi (sour milk and pap).

We took Mduduzi shopping for a few bits and pieces. He only has one little shirt and one pair of shorts that his mother diligently washes every day for his visit to the clinic. He wanted to try everything on, including the 6 pairs of new undies – each and every one! Now he can “swank” on Monday for his bandage change!


Mar 22

Mduduzi is doing well. His right arm no longer needs to be bandaged and the left is much better. He is apparently still having nightmares, some nights he refuses to sleep at his home and insists on sleeping with one of the Nisela staff members (Willias our old gardener)

Still waiting to hear about the skin graft. Apparently they are considering not doing it as there may be complication due to the HIV status. His wounds are looking very healthy, bright pink. We are on the road to recovery!!! We are taking him to the physiotherapist once a week. She has given him a ball to squeeze and several throwing exercises. The muscles in his left arm are getting stronger all the time.

Mduduzi’s father is a little better but still very, very weak.


Apr 12

Mduduzi is doing much better and seems to be improving by the day. The docs that are still treating him say that it has taken much longer than expected because of his HIV status.  There will be no skin graft. We still fetch him every second day – take him to the clinic to have his bandages changed.

Mentally he is also doing well. He made a friend of our old gardener Willias who is about 1 day younger than J.C. Himself. They spend hours chatting about this and that as well as the snakebite and what happened to him. The old gardener reports back on what they chatted about, and is of the opinion that he has accepted and come to terms with the “accident”. Mduduzi doesn’t stay over at Willias’s house that often anymore and is playing and behaving like a normal little 4 year old.

Mduduzi is still very suspicious of strangers but otherwise I think he is on the road to recovery.


April 30

The wounds have almost healed completely but Mduduzi can’t straighten his arm because of the contracture (elbow), but he has full use of both his hands. One blessing. Wonder what is going to happen to this poor young boy.

His father is also much stronger, the ARV’s are working.