Durban - A Camperdown man who was bitten by a Boomslang twice, about 10 days ago - after mistaking it for a bush snake - is at last showing signs of recovery and was able to get out of his hospital bed.
While he is still in ICU, Jacques Haarhoff was finally able to talk to his family and walk around after being in a critical condition since he was admitted to Grey’s Hospital last Saturday.
His wife Chantell Haarhoff, who has been by his side every day, on Wednesday told The Mercury that her husband had come off the ventilator and was able to eat a little too.
“He is improving and we are very happy because we were afraid we would lose him,” she said.
According to his brother Leonard Haarhoff, Jacques was bitten by a highly venomous Boomslang last Saturday afternoon.
He had been called out to the garden of their home by his 8-year-old son, who had seen something moving in the bushes.
“He's always been a Crocodile Dundee kind of person. He knows snakes, he's had snakes so he picked it up to move it away from the house but he got this one wrong big time,” said Leonard.
Chantell said her husband dropped the snake when it bit him a second time but he thought it was a non-venomous bites from a harmless bush snake.
“He went to lie down and when he woke up he said he was not feeling too well. He was bitten around 3pm but just after 7pm he started spitting blood and we knew we had to get him to hospital,” said Chantell.
At the hospital, they waited about four more hours for antivenom but when it was administered to Jacques, he had a reaction to it.
“He reacted to the second dose but the third took well."
Chantell said he had suffered damage to his kidney and had turned yellow.
According to the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) this was due to Boomslang’s haemotoxic venom which destroys red blood cells, disrupts blood clotting, and causes organ degeneration and tissue damage.
Fortunately for Jacques, the venom is slow acting, taking between 24 to 48 hours to produce serious symptoms. This saved his life, as the delay in getting treatment would have proved fatal with some types of venomous snakes.
Nick Evans, founder of KZN Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, said bush snakes and the Boomslang had a similar green skin but the green adult Boomslang had unmistakable bright green eyes and very large oval heads.
“They have black bands all the way down their bodies and are thicker than bush snakes, which have black speckles halfway down their bodies. Their tails are plain and they have a yellow underbelly,” said Evans.
While its venom was “very potent” it was slower working than that of the cobra or mamba, giving the victim time to get to the hospital.