The Boy That Swallowed a Fish
Village life can be deadly
A village tragedy
My youngest aunt is only eight years older than I am so our relationship is more of a sisterhood.
When she was a teenager her boyfriend died.
Now you might say people die every day.
Though that may be true but in our part of the world, young people rarely died.
Whenever that happened it was a tragedy indeed.
One that will be talked about for years to come.
He swallowed a fish
As a fun custom, the young men often got together to catch fish.
One of the ways they did this was by hand.
The technique of catching fish with your bare hand is referred to as ‘feeling for fish’.
A few guys, about four or so would get together to feel for fish.
It was usually a fun and friendly competitive sport.
But sometimes the fishes were caught for food.
They would take off their shirts and pants and get in the water with only their boxers.
They would use their hands and feet to feel for fish in the mud.
When they got hold of a fish they would throw them up onto the dam,
Sometimes they have a crossbody bag in which to put their catch.
Other times there would be other boys or spectators who would be waiting to store the fish into baskets or a bag.
If no one was about they ‘feelers’ would just throw the fish onto the dam until later.
This day, however, only God knows why this young fella decided to put the fish he caught in his mouth while he attempted to grab another.
Guess he was driven to win.
The fish he caught is called a patwa.
This fish closely resembles a tilapia.
These fishes are fairly small but when the fins open up they could easily occlude the airway.
If introduced headfirst into his mouth, it could easily wreak havoc.
Wriggling and sliding further downwards while the fins rip the throat.
He had just caught that fish so it slipped into the young man’s throat effectively closing off his airway.
His friends realized he was in distress called out for help.
In the panic, the young man was moving and clawing at his neck, vainly trying to breathe.
Had he placed the fishtail side first he may have stood a chance.
Because it would have been difficult for it to slide down his throat as the fish was still alive and its tail and dorsal fin would likely be fanned outward.
The boy was rushed to the nearest hospital but he died on the way.
It was a really sad time.
This young man lost his life before he even hit his prime.
Not from an illness but while performing an act that was completely avoidable.
Remember, in his village, there is no 911 to call.
No emergency response team.
You get driven to the cottage hospital, no imaging services are available, even to the present day.
We stayed alive because of the acquired intelligence of the elders.
And the grace of God.
They utilized their generational knowledge and used herbs with the precision of a trained pharmacist.
Ninety-nine percent of us made it to adult alive and well.
Though this unfortunate young man lost his life, such a tragedy was never repeated.
Everyone learned the lesson, and that error was never repeated.
Though it was a hard lesson, it resulted in many other lives being saved.
Pene Hodge is a mom, a nurse, a writer. She writes because she must. She loves people and is committed to sharing and gleaning knowledge for the betterment of all.
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