I just returned from a 2 week trip to rural northern Honduras where muddy roads twist up steep mountain sides, and where farmers manage near vertical fields of corn and beans where mahogany trees once grew.
A fifteen year old farmer leaned over in the beating sun, swinging his machete in his right hand while gathering ripe corn with his left. His 10 year old brother picked up the ears that had fallen to the muddy ground. The older boy suddenly felt a cool touch on the back of his neck…followed by a slick sensation running down his left arm.
With an automatic reaction fueled by terror, the poisonous snake was killed with one swift swing of his machete. His left hand began spurting blood from the deep laceration left by the machete. The snake was dead, but he could no longer move the last three fingers of his left hand.
The younger boy ran to the edge of the field yelling for the other workers. The older boy stumbled down the hillside corn rows in shock, cradling his left hand across his chest. One of the older men doused the bleeding hand in gasoline to prevent infection and wrapped his hand in a towel.
With no choice but to maintain composure, the two boys began the five hour trek to our clinic where I met them for the first time.