My Relationship with Saint Patrick, as a fellow “snake man”

Erin Go Bragh!

March 17th is Saint Patrick’s Day, and of course we think of the Irish. My two daughters are half-Irish and they grew up with vivid memories of fun family gatherings with a large extended Irish-American family in Boston.  Here in Honolulu they hold another massive block party downtown in the Arts District (which also happens to be the Bar District). We were never big into the Saint Patrick’s Day party scene and I am told that in Ireland they look askance at the carryings-on here in the USA.

Irish culture and heritage includes more than just JFK, beer, River Dance, and “the troubles.”

Snakes in Ireland

Saint Patrick was famous for having driven the snakes out of Ireland.

Snakes in Tansen, Nepal

If you have read my book about hospital care in Nepal, you will no doubt have gotten to the chapter about care of snakebite victims.  The book tells the story in detail – I knew at the time it was going to be a “lifetime war story” simply because it was such an amazing set of circumstances. Of all the stories I wrote about which eventually became the book, this was the first chapter to be set onto paper – and what you read is 95% the first draft – the story told itself. which is of course, a characteristic of all the best stories.

If this picques your interest in reading the book – please do so – but I have to warn you , not every story in it has an upbeat ending……

The best part of a medical tale?

the best part of course, is that the patient survived. And even better: Even though the story has fantastical elements,  I have witnesses.  a Year after the episode,  a friend from Honolulu decided to also volunteer in Tansen, and the first thing he did when he got there was to inquire as to whether the snakebite story ever really happened.  Yes, they told him – Joe is “The Snake Man”

The Even better bestest  part?

The even better best part, is that though I was involved in saving the life of a fully-envenomated person by using a mechanical ventilator for the first time, the staff and crew of Mission Hospital has built upon what they learned, (and subsequent trainings by other volunteers including Respiratory Therapists) to save the lives of about fifty more. Yes, folks, I am proud of what I contributed; but I am especially proud of what the Mission Hospital staff is now able to do. Every time they save a life with this technology, I can vicariously share in their success.

The Real Snake Man of Tansen

Back to Saint Patrick. Maybe there were no literal snakes, and the figurative snakes of Ireland were the elements of the Druidic religion – who knows. But there are tips for how to really get rid of a snake, even if the goal is to not kill it. In Tansen, there is a local go-to guy who does all the snake relocations. and I have him on video.   I was able to see him at work, getting rid of a snake that lived in the thatched roof of a mudbrick house –  this involved building a smoky fire to drive it away – not something I personally would have attempted ( occasionally the house burns down, this way…)

I will be back next week with more directly nursing-related blog entries –  in the meantime, wear green and have fun but be careful out there!



Filed under Honolulu, Nepal

2 responses to “My Relationship with Saint Patrick, as a fellow “snake man”

  1. Pádraig

    The Irish for “poisonous snake” is “nathair nimhe”. The Irish for “suction” is surác. It is not a coincidence that your name sounds like “Nimhe-surác”. Tá sé an chinniúint. (“It is fate.”) Perhaps it was foretold.

    • am a skeptic about this. I confess I don’t know the pronunciation rules for Irish, but I wonder about the Romanized alphabet. Many European languages use the Roman alphabet as the jumping off point for their own tongue, this lead me to think back to the time I was at a reception for members of the band “Altan” when they played in Maine. Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh was and is their lead vocalist. At the reception, she sang something in Irish, later I had the opportunity to read the lyrics, and it resembled nothing I heard. I think there must be an Irish-specific syllabary, which would of course address this.

      The key to an alphabet ought to be that it is phonetic, but some languages have sounds that are not represented well using a Roman alphabet…… I found a site that explains this as well as the various alphabets they have tried…..some runic and others romanic….

      and PS, Mairead was a sweet, gracious and wonderful person…..

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