Wednesday, January 14, 2009

One Cobra in the Car is One Too Many!

It was a typical, beautiful Sunday morning on the southern island of Mindanao, in the Philippines as our family loaded into our little 10 year old car which was once a Philippine taxi.  After a few months in the Philippines we were accustomed to the stares and laughter as our family of six rode to church in our four-passenger vehicle, so that’s no longer our topic of conversation.

Jim preached the morning message primarily in English with a few words and phrases in Cebuano.  In spite of the language barrier, the Holy Spirit spoke to the heart of a Filipina woman and she came forward to accept Christ during the invitation.  This was a special joy to our family as we had invited her to the new barrio church in Lapu Lapu Village just that morning.  After the service we rode home happily, anticipating our afternoon drive to Tagum, an hour away, where we would minister in testimony and song that evening.

We finished with lunch and began packing the car for our overnight stay.  Tara, our three-year-old daughter, was walking to the car when Jim looked out the front door and saw a 3-foot long cobra behind the rear tire.  As Tara came closer the snake rose to strike, but just in time Jim yelled and pulled her out of the way.  Immediately he went to get a large bamboo stick to kill the snake, but when he returned, the cobra had disappeared.

Jim began a thorough inspection of the grass, bushes and drains, but found no cobra.  Because we have many holes in the floor of our old car, we thought it best to check it also.  After removing all the luggage and looking under the seats, Jim still could not find the snake, so we were partially satisfied that we were safe.

We resumed our repacking and by 2:00 pm were on our way to the meeting in Tagum.  Jim turned onto Ma-a Road—a very bumpy, dusty, gravel road.  After driving for a few minutes, we hit a hole and one of our suitcases fell off the top of the car.  We stopped while Jim retied the baggage and then were on our way again.

  Tammy (9), Chad (6), and Tara (3) were chattering away in the back and I was thoroughly enjoying the view of tall coconut palms and nipa huts scattered among the trees.  There was a fresh sea breeze that day and the scenery seemed like a picture postcard.  Of course by this time we were used to the bumpy road, so I didn’t pay much attention to the next bump as our heads hit the ceiling until Jim began kicking and yelling.  I couldn’t believe he was telling us to get out of the car while we were rolling along at 25 m.p.h.  Then I caught it“A snake!” The snake was in our car!

Evidently the snake had entered in through one of the holes in the floor and crawled up behind the dash board.  When the car hit the bump the snake dropped down between Jim’s legs.  He looked in horror as the cobra raised its head, opened its hood and struck him on the right leg.  Thankfully, he was wearing his cowboy boots and the snake struck ¼ inch below the top of his boot.  In trying to kick the snake,though, Jim caught his right foot between the brake and the clutch pedal and we were unable to stop.  The cobra crawled up between the seats and headed for the children in back but because they were waving their arms it turned around and came to my side of the car.  The black and yellowish snake slithered over our 20 month old baby, Tania’s leg and bit her on top of the right foot.  By this time the car had slowed down and Jim, in desperation, had opened his door and put his left foot out dragging it in the sand in an attempt to stop us.  Finally, the car stalled and I flung open my door as the snake made his exit along with Chad, Tammy and Tara who were by this time hysterical.  I was out immediately after them with the baby.  I did not realize that the snake had escaped or that Tania had been bitten. 

In less than a minute hundreds of Filipinos surrounded us--they had been watching the crazy scene of six Americanos yelling and trying to jump out of an old taxi.  As they began to ask questions we were amazed at our ability to communicate with them in Cebuano, even though we had only been in language study for five months.  

As several men with bolo knives chased the snake, we all suddenly realized that Tania had been bitten.  A man immediately began squeezing her leg and rubbing it in his effort to force the poison back down her foot.  Jim quickly applied a tourniquet to her leg, and then we all jumped back into the car and headed for the closest hospital.  

Sunday is always a big market day with traffic-congested roads, and this day was no exception.  We drove in three minutes what normally took ten.  I was sure we would have a terrible accident as Jim cut between traffic and raced through the market.  It was as if the Lord moved the cars and made openings just wide enough for us to squeeze through.  We reached the hospital, our 12-inch tires squealing and smoking.  Jim brought the car to an abrupt halt in front of the emergency entrance. 

We have been told that with cobra bites an adult usually has 20 minutes to live, but for a child, that length of time is greatly reduced.  Tania was already pale and her eyes were rolling back in her head as Jim carried her into the emergency room.  At first the nurses and doctors refused to believe us, but after examining Tania’s foot and hearing Jim describe the snake, they suddenly came to life.  An incision was made between the fang marks and the blood and some of the poison were suctioned out of the wound  The doctor then told us that there was no anti-venom in Davao City.  This was a shock we had not anticipated. 

Jim took the three older children out on the hospital lawn and prayed and then took them home, not knowing if Tania would be alive when he returned. 

After one hour in the ER they put Tania in a private room for observation.  None of the doctors could believe that she survived.  When our pediatrician came the next morning, Tania was up and smiling.  What we had witnessed was nothing less than a miracle.  Even though the cobra had left much of his venom on Jim’s boot there was still more than enough left to harm a small child.  The doctor’s comments on his discharge report said “MIRACLE”

Humanly speaking we should have had a tragedy before Christmas that year, but God in His wonderful mercy and grace brought us again through the fire of purification and spared our youngest daughter.

“For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways...You will tread upon the lion and the cobra...”  Psalm 91:11,13


Copyright 1982  Denise Greenacre