Selvarasu: Farmer vs. Snake
OCCUPATION: Coconut Farmer
AGE: Late 30’s
BITTEN BY: Russell’s Viper
LOCATION: Erode, India
Our first visit with Selvarasu made it clear we were meeting a man who has done everything to make life work for his family. Underneath the once proud farmer’s façade was a victim suffering on many levels. During our interview, Selvarasu broke into tears, which in turn brought tears to the filming crew. Recounting his struggles since a fateful night in 2012 is enough to make the strongest of souls break down.
Selvarasu was once one heck of a farmer, inching up his tall trees at rapid speed to pluck an abundant crop of coconuts. On descent, Selvarasu would gather his gems, dragging them by sacks to his porch where he’d prep everything for sale. Life was good for this provider. While tending to his fields one night, a violent strike from a Russell’s viper sent him on a hospital scavenger hunt of sorts. First, a government hospital had no stock of antivenom and physicians claimed Selvarasu was near death. Not having it, the family journeyed to a private facility where 35 vials of antvenom were administered over twelve hours. When the family was told Selvarasu may only have six to eight hours more to live, the fastest ambulance driver drove him to the hospital that would save his life – a seven hour drive, made in five hours.
Although his leg tissue had rotted, doctors avoided amputation, but many years of wound care would be needed. Loans to cover both hospital and transport costs left Selvarasu with nothing. Leaving the hospital early was his only option. Selvarasu would become his own doctor, cleaning and dressing his own wound, a daily ritual he continues to take seriously five years after the bite. But his climbing career was over.
The Ripple Effect: Selvarasu earns less income because he now pays someone else to climb his trees. Coupled with the debt incurred from treatment, his wife has turned to shelling peanuts for extra income. His three children watch their struggling father open notices from school officials asking for past due fees. Selling off what few remaining possessions is the only option to keep food on the table, and the children in school.