Update: 10:50 | 04/09/2020
A man hospitalized with a three-meter king cobra coiled around his arm last month has recovered after spending weeks in intensive care.
Phan Van Tam, 38, on Thursday said he is now healthier and able to breathe on his own. The patient is being treated at HCMC's Cho Ray Hospital.
"I'm about 70 percent recovered. As a farmer who's not very good with words, I can only thank the doctors who have treated me and those who have helped me lately," he said.
Phan Van Tam, 28, lies in his bed at the Cho Ray Hospital in HCMC.
Tam had some stomach and thigh tissue removed due to necrosis, said Doctor Nguyen Qui Hung of the hospital's ICU department. His lung and heart functions have also returned to normal, Hung added.
"The patient has recovered well. However, he still needs multiple skin grafts to restore necrotic skin sections on his stomach," he said.
Tam is expected to be transferred to the Tropical Diseases department within Thursday for further treatment and monitoring.
On August 19, Tam was rushed to the hospital in his hometown Tay Ninh Province, which borders HCMC, after a three-meter king cobra bit him and coiled itself around his arm.
That morning, he spotted the giant snake right by his feet and reflexively used a hand to grab it. But the snake eluded his grasp, bit his right thigh and coiled itself around an arm and his neck. Unable to shake it off, he grabbed its head with another hand, before people tied a cloth around his leg as a tourniquet, taped the snake's mouth and brought him to the hospital.
Tam's condition soon took a turn for the worse, prompting a transfer from Tay Ninh General Hospital to Cho Ray Hospital. The venom damaged his kidneys, forcing doctors to put him on ventilation and constant blood filtration. Tam also suffered paralysis and swelling due to the venom, with doctors injecting him with antivenom and antibiotics to survive. There were times when doctors weren't sure whether he would make it or not.
Nguyen Van Tam with the king cobra around his arm at the Tay Ninh General Hospital on August 19, 2020.
The snake died.
Tam and his wife, 28-year-old Bui Thi Ngoc Tuoi, are raising two small children, aged two and nine, in poverty. Tam used to work as a bricklayer, but broke his leg in a traffic accident earlier this year. After surgery, Tam was no longer able to do heavy-duty work, and so resorted to catching snakes to help pay for his children's tuition. Snakes are purchased in Vietnam as food or for making snake wine.
"I'm never catching snakes again," Tam said.
The king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah), the world’s longest venomous snake, delivers enough poison in a single bite to kill an elephant. The fatality rate is high if victims are not promptly treated.