“A Cobra and a Panga”. By Dr. Robert O. Stephens as told to Henry Regehr

The Congolese brown cobra slowly slithered up the tree near the Nyankunde medical station. Drawing on the wisdom of a thousand generations it chose a branch over a path, in this case, frequented by villagers headed to the hospital. It carefully selected a spot where it was fully camouflaged among the leaves and because it was not in a hurry it was quite prepared to patiently lie in ambush until a likely meal passed by. 

The young Congolese woman, carrying a lunch in a pot on her head in the traditional style, was on her way to visit her mother in the hospital. She was on the same path. 

Some distance away a strong young man was vigorously using his panga to cut branches for his mud hut, so that he would have a home for his new wife. He was startled by a horrifying scream. He stopped a moment to get the direction of the sound and, panga in hand, rushed to the source of the deadly scream. He found the young woman, shrouded by the cobra, fighting for breath and for her life. The young man new his duty, and after circling the dramatic scene for a proper vantage point, raised the panga and in one deft stroke cut of the snake’s head. Villagers soon had surrounded the scene and were energetically pulling the entangled woman from the tight grip of the now powerless cobra. 

Her husband arrived on the scene, took woman up into his strong arms, and carried her to the hospital where Doctor Bob immediately saw to her injuries. In addition to the trauma caused by the experience, she had several broken ribs but no other internal injuries and was discharged, with suitable bandaging, into her husband’s care.  

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