A close call for Sali Inuga from Central Province as she nearly lost her life from a deadly Taipan bite but was quickly prevented, thanks to St John Ambulance’s mobile intensive care crew.
The incident occurred in Sali’s village along the Magi Highway when Sali was attacked by a Taipan snake while she tending to her garden.
Due to the snake bites’ high fatality rate, Sali’s life was already hanging by a thread.
She was brought to Kwikila Hospital in critical condition, the clinic doctor and HEO sprang into action, administering anti-venom to counteract the venom’s effects.
But Sali’s breathing was severely already compromised by snake’s venom, and she needed immediate advanced care to survive.
Recognizing the urgency, the doctor at Kwikila Hospital called for help from the St John Ambulance mobile intensive care ambulance team crew.
Two ambulance units rushed to the scene, equipped with a doctor, paramedic, and two ambulance officers.
The challenge was daunting with Sali’s breathing at a rate of 40 breaths per minute.
The snakebite venom had already caused partial paralysis of the muscles used for breathing.
She was in a life-threatening respiratory state called hypercapnia.
Unable to move properly, bleeding and agitated, she needed a risky medical procedure called rapid sequence intubation to take over the function of her breathing and keep her airway open.
Dr. Arabella Koliwan stated that the procedure was complex and time-sensitive requiring skill and precision.
“We have a very small window of only about 30 seconds to secure a breathing tube in her lungs, hence the St John doctor and paramedic had to act swiftly.”
After a painstaking hour to resuscitate and intubate her at the Kwikila district hospital, Sali was stabilized and ready for transport.
The St John team, along with the ambulance officers, ensured she received the meticulous care she needed during the difficult 2.5-hour journey from the district hospital to Port Moresby General Hospital.
Meanwhile, Sali’s husband, who anxiously waited at Kwikila Hospital, boarded the ambulance determined to be by her side.
Throughout the journey, he witnessed the unwavering dedication of the St John medical team as they provided vital support to his ailing wife.
Overwhelmed with gratitude, he expressed his heartfelt appreciation for their commitment to saving her life.
This rescue is just one example of the exceptional care provided by St John Ambulance and highlights the benefit of the mobile intensive care ambulance team – which provides entirely free care to all Papua New Guineans in NCD, Central and even parts of Gulf province.
Snakebite emergencies are unfortunately common in this region, and St John Ambulance responds to hundreds of cases of snakebite each year.
An estimated rate of 1,000 Papua New Guinean’s lose their life each year from snakebite – which is a preventable and curable condition.
Snakebites not only have physical consequences but also cause emotional distress for the victims and their families.
The dedication of the St John Ambulance team extends beyond emergency response.
They conduct snakebite awareness programs in communities, educating people about snakes, and teaching first aid management.
Through their first aid training programs, they empower individuals with the knowledge and skills to recognize snakebite symptoms, apply appropriate first aid techniques, and seek prompt medical assistance.
St John’s collaboration with hospitals, provincial health authorities and medical professionals ensures that patients receive timely and specialized treatment and Sali’s life being saved was a testament to the importance of swift medical intervention and the unwavering commitment of these healthcare heroes.