“This boy is lucky.” The doctor said, as he spoke with my parents, moments after the snake antivenom was administered. I was much relaxed now, but it was still like a dream to me.
Well, that is how it always is, when the unexpected happens so quickly and you are left wondering what could have been.
I was 14, and I already knew too well what asthma is. I knew how devastating it could be. I had started experiencing its symptoms before I was old enough to master the wall clock.
The night when it all started, mother thought it was malaria. That was something the average Nigerian child would come down with on many occasions.
The only problem was that this did not come with a high body temperature. “What kind of malaria is this”, she wondered. How I survived that night with nobody around having any clue as to what was really happening to me is beyond what I can tell.
By the time we were leaving the hospital the next day, my parents already knew they had a battle in their hands.
They’d have to teach their little boy too how to be a step ahead of asthma.
Even though I had been naughty and careless a couple of times, we had conquered every assault of the condition since then.
But this calm summer night in 2003, we had no inkling that something else was brewing up while we were coasting home to another victory over asthma.
It was a Saturday. My friend had come to check how I was faring following the bout earlier on. We had a great time chatting and laughing. When it was time for him to leave, I decided to walk him out. Dusk was already giving way for darkness but our street was a familiar, sandy terrain. There was nothing to be worried about.
In about 10 years of staying in that environment, the incidence of snake appearance was less than 4. And none of this was on the street’s clear way.
But we never knew one was lurking nearby.
50 yards out into the street, yelp! I suddenly felt a sting in my right foot. “My leg!” I shouted. I lifted it up in reflex action, suspending it and bending my head downwards to have a view. Then something black-looking slithered past. “Snake! Snake!” We both screamed in vernacular. Before I could decide what to do, my friend was already 10 yards away, racing towards their house.
I leapt with a suspended foot to the house. I do not know if it was adrenaline or something else; but I managed to get home in what would pass for a record time for a limping runner.
Flinging the gate open, I dashed in screaming, “Snake! My leg! The venom is moving!” It was my sister who first heard me, but soon everyone was out. Immediately the house was thrown into chaos. They all knew what a snake bite meant.
My brother hurried to get pieces of cloth and tied at different points in my leg. My mum and sister were pacifying me, uttering loud prayers and at the same time screaming, “Let’s go to the hospital!” Dad breezed out to open the gate and before we knew it, he was driving out an empty car! “Wait, wait, you are leaving him behind!” He heard that and quickly brought the car to a halt.
For the ordinary person, it is hard to tell if a snake is venomous or not. Even if one could tell easily, it becomes difficult when you could only get a vague view of it. In Nigeria, most of the snakes are poisonous and a lot of deaths occur from snake bites.
As we journeyed to the hospital, many thoughts fought for a place in my mind. “Have I come to the end of the road?” “Am I going to die now?” “I thought I had long years ahead of me?” “What about all the visions I had seen of the future? Will they all be gone now?” I started thinking about my friends, classmates and loved ones. Am I leaving them now?
As this struggle was going on inside me, my folks were praying and saying encouraging words to me.
All of a sudden, like a flash in the darkness, I remembered a scripture I had committed to memory years before – Psalm 118:17, “I shall not die but live, and declare the works of the Lord.” Yes, that’s right! From nowhere, a surge of strength and faith came over me and I began to say those words confidently and repeatedly.
Even though I was only a lad, I had always been persuaded that God was actively committed in keeping me alive. I often thought to myself, “If I didn’t leave the world that desperate night when I was first hit by asthma at a very young age, then God has got something up His sleeve about my life.”
With that scripture verse popping fiercely out of my mouth, as we approached the hospital, I began to have a sense of assurance that I was going to live. I began to feel certain about seeing the next day and the many days ahead of it.
The drive from the house to the hospital was approximately 10 minutes. It was one of the top private medical centres in town but they did not have the snake antivenom. My dad had to go looking for it in town.
As if the disappointment from the hospital was not enough, the first two pharmacies he entered were out of stock. These were major stores in the town.
The antivenom is known to be in short supply in many developing nations. That reality must have dawned on him that night, with his heart racing fast, knowing he is right at the centre of the quest to save his son’s life. His third attempt was however successful. It was another major store. They had the antidote. And it was the last stock!
So, maybe the doctor was right. Maybe I was lucky.
But then, maybe it was something more than luck; because the signs say much more than that. The handwriting printed all over the entire episode points to a divine influence.
For all the time that passed between that unfortunate moment when the reptile struck and the administration of the antidote, something worse could have happened? I do remember there were swelling, pain and redness around the bite area, but not so much of other symptoms.
I have witnessed God’s faithfulness and mercy on many other occasions but the drama that played out that night left a much more indelible impression on me. The reality of divine intervention showing up in one’s time of dire need could not have been better demonstrated to me.
It is hard not to keep my trust in Him. In moments when it seems as if God is far away, all I do is take a trip back to this great deliverance and find a reassurance of God’s unwavering commitment to His children. I ponder upon every other instance where God’s power has been so real to me, and my doubts about Him fritter away instantly.
Sunday came, and I was discharged. The news filtered around and everyone was excited and praised the Lord. When Monday entered, I dragged myself to school. That morning, without prior notice, new student leaders were presented and I emerged as the school’s Head Boy.
Is this what all that trouble was about? I cannot tell. All I know is that I did not die but I have been kept alive to declare the works of the Lord.
Ogaga Eruteya is a Nigerian Christian minister, writer and speaker. He writes on Faith, Personal Development, Youth Development, and Life Realities. With his words, he seeks to inspire, motivate, propagate life’s truths and represent a sincere Christian voice. Learn more about Ogaga here.