Hunt is on for the Low's Gulley snake lady
ARMY doctors in Hong Kong are attempting to trace a Malaysian tribal medicine woman who used a potion of snake flesh wild herbs and animal bones to save the hand of one of the Low's Gulley expedition survivors.
They hope to recreate the medical effect of the potion which apparently cleaned up putrid flesh in a machete wound in the hand of Sergeant Bob Mann.
'It felt as though my hand was on fire . . . 20 minutes later, the skin was spotlessly clean . . . The open wound had been fused.' Without the treatment army doctors fear the sergeant, a Territorial Army Commando from Plymouth, Devon, might have had to have the hand amputated.
Sergeant Mann, 37, was part of the 10-man team which became lost in the gulley on Mount Kinabalu, Sabah earlier this year.
But the soldier has only now spoken out about the apparently miraculous way his wound was healed.
Sergeant Mann was one of the faster team that went ahead leaving two officers and three Hong Kong soldiers behind.
But when his party split up for a while, he and 25-year-old Lance Corporal Richard Mayfield one point had to hack their own path through jungle.
He slipped and fell on his machete almost slicing off two fingers on his right hand and cutting his palm to the bone.
'We put iodine on the wound and tried to keep it clean, but it was impossible. The jungle is full of flies and leeches. Within days my hand was swollen and feeling numb,' he said.
That was three days after the group had originally become lost and it was a further eight days before the pair found their way to safety.
Sergeant Mann, a trained medic, had already diagnosed his hand as being gangrenous.
'By then it was in a bad state and I was convinced I would lose my fingers or even my hand,' he said.
'It was smelling like rotten meat and to be honest I tried to ignore it. There was nothing that could be done in the jungle. But I was only concerned that any infection could poison my body.' The pair came out of the jungle near the small village of Kampung Melangkap Kapa and Sergeant Mann collapsed.
A village elder helped clean the more superficial wounds on the two men and called for a medicine woman.
'This old lady just grabbed my hand and forced it into a large jar of what I was told was snake flesh, herbs and bones,' he said.
'I was too weak to argue. It felt as though my hand was on fire and when she pulled it out about 20 minutes later, the skin was spotlessly clean. It was unbelievable. The puss had gone and the open wound had been fused.
'My hand looked as though I had immersed it in water for several hours. It was wrinkled and very, very clean. Thanks to the treatment my hand was saved.' After their escape the sergeant was flown to the British Military Hospital in Hong Kong where doctors confirmed the witch doctor had saved the hand.
They operated on the tendons leaving him with more than 40 stitches. Two more operations were needed to replace damaged tissue.
'The doctors wanted to know exactly what was in the potion and asked me for any assistance I could give. But I told them I didn't know, all I wanted to do was sleep,' Sergeant Mann said.
He said he then received a letter from one of the doctors saying the Royal Army Medical Corps wanted to identify the potion.
A hospital spokesman said: 'Its antiseptic qualities are obviously very powerful and we are always keen to broaden our knowledge in these areas.
'We want to know what the medicine consisted of and to establish if in fact there is any benefit which can be adopted within military medicine.' However, according to a garrison spokesman in Hong Kong, the only doctor left in the BMH hospital remembered the wound as being not serious and one which would heal once the victim left the jungle.