Ian Jones, a dad-of-two who lives in the village of Niton on the Isle of Wight, passed in and out of a coma and was given anti-venom, oxygen and CPR in order to survive after the deadly bites.
Image: Ewan Galvin/Solent News)
A British dad was blinded after being bitten twice by one of the world’s deadliest snakes, while he was also battling his second bout of coronavirus.
Social enterprise CEO Ian Jones was hospitalised for three weeks in northern India last year after being bitten by a black king cobra.
The 50-year-old, who lives in the village of Niton on the Isle of Wight, passed in and out of a coma and was given anti-venom, oxygen and CPR in order to survive.
Doctors told him he was incredibly lucky to survive the double bite from the king cobra – which has enough venom in one bite to kill 20 men.
The father-of-two is now permanently blind from the effects of the bite, but has slowly regained full feeling and movement in his legs.
Despite the devastating effects of the horrific attack, Ian will return to India this Sunday for work.
He had been working in the village of Narnadi, in the Jodhpur district of the northwestern Indian state of Rajasthan, when he caught Covid for the second time in November last year.
Ian was then bitten by the first snake he had ever encountered in his four years visiting and working in the country.
“I was in my room five days after testing positive when I realised I hadn’t eaten for four or five days, so I went into the kitchen and put a ready meal in the microwave,” Ian said.
“I had to sit down on the sofa because my head began spinning, and our adopted dog Rocky came rushing in barking with this petrified bark I had never heard before. I leaned over to pet him but didn’t realise there was a cobra curled up under the sofa.”
The cobra struck him twice, Ian said, right on the back of his hand.
“The bites were not as painful as you might think at first; it is a temporary pain like when you step on a nail – but then the venom starts working quickly,” Ian recalled.
Ewan Galvin/Solent News)
“Once I realised it was a cobra I got up off the sofa, because Rocky had put himself between me and the snake.
“The cobra was upright and performing its’ dance – ready to strike again.
“Having grown up in Australia as a young boy, the first thing I knew to do was to take a photo of the snake to show to doctors at the hospital which snake had bitten me.”
Ian managed to send a WhatsApp message to some workers, and Ian said some people turned up five minutes later.
“We needed to catch the snake first, but by this time I was feeling really light headed,” he said. “The pain was excruciating up my arm, and I had put a tourniquet on it to stop the venom spreading.
He remembered sending messages to his family in the car on the way to the hospital, including one to his wife which said something like ‘’Hi love, don’t worry but I have just been bitten by a snake’.
Ian was rushed to the local village hospital, where colleagues had to purchase the correct anti-venom from stores outside the hospital.
He spent the following days slipping in and out of a coma in three hospitals, and was also given CPR several times to restart his heart.
Eight days later he was transferred from a covid ward into intensive care at the largest hospital in Jaipur, the state capital. In the new ward, Ian spoke to his family for the first time since the bite – including his two sons Michael and Seb, both in their twenties.
One bite from a black king cobra can kill 20 men or an adult elephant, he said, and he had been lucky to survive being bitten twice.
“I called my family, who were so relieved to hear my voice again. There were a few moments where they were very concerned as to whether I would pull through this,” he said.
While he considered himself lucky to survive, Ian’s eyesight soon began to deteriorate, he began struggling to breathe and he lost feeling in his legs after he was transferred to intensive care. Doctors weren’t sure if the issues were caused by the bite or the medication, he said.
“I remember the doctors asking me what I could see… I asked them to turn on the lights so I could see in a brighter room – but the lights were already on, it was just dark for me.”
After three weeks in hospital, Ian managed to arrange a flight back home with the help of the Home Office and the British Embassy.
Ian’s wife, 50 year old Sue, met him at the airport with a change of clothes – but he was unable to have any contact with family until his two week quarantine period had ended.
On seeing his family again, Ian said: “It was great relief knowing I was back home in England. I had to quarantine for two weeks so catching up with friends and family was mostly done by video calls, but it was great eventually meeting with my parents on the mainland again after so long.
“My family were ecstatic that I was back and still here… it was amazing when we first got together after.”
Despite his harrowing experience, Ian heads back to India this Sunday to continue work with Sabirian. A lot of people relied on him out there, he said.
“My family and worried about me going back, but they understand what we are trying to achieve out there. I was always going to return.”
A Go Fund Me page set up by Community Action Isle of Wight, which owns Sabirian, was launched in November to cover medical costs as well as the repatriation flight ticket for Ian.
The page has now raised more than £21,000.