Despite being declared dead from pet cobra’s bite, family refuses to bury son, hopes ritual can cure him

Rizky Ahmad playing with his pet king cobra during Car Free Day (CFD) in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan on Sunday.
Rizky Ahmad playing with his pet king cobra during Car Free Day (CFD) in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan on Sunday.

Seventeen-year-old Rizky Ahmad seemed to have genuine affection for his pet king cobra, which he had taken in after finding it caught in a net following a flood in his hometown of Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan. His social media was filled with photos, such as the one above, of him playing and posing with the 3-meter-long reptile, which his family said he believed to be tame.

But as it goes in the fable, a snake cannot deny its nature. When Rizky brought the snake out to show it off at Palangkaraya’s Car Free Day event on Sunday, the cobra bit him in his right arm. The teenager reportedly shrugged it off and continued to play with his pet for around an hour before he felt the effects of the poison.

He was rushed to nearby Doris Sylvanus Hospital, where he was put in intensive care, given multiple doses of anti-venom and treated for 24-hours before doctors finally declared him dead.

But Rizky’s family refused to accept the doctors’ assessment and have taken his body home, believing their son still shows signs of life and that he could still be saved through means beyond medical science.  

“Even though we have entered the second day, we still believe that our child has not died because his body is still warm and sweaty. We are still trying to perform a ritual so that our child can recover,” said Rizky’s father, Suwardi, when met by Kompas reporters at his home on Tuesday.

Reports say that, until at least last night, the family along with a pawang ular (an occupation that might loosely be translated as “snake shaman”) were still conducting the ritual aimed at bringing Rizky back. According to reports, the king cobra that bit him was placed in a box next to the bed upon which Rizky’s body had been laid and that, at times the snake had been placed in the bed with him as part of the ritual.

Dr. Theodorus Sapta Atmadja, who had helped treat Rizky at Doris Sylvanus Hospital, said that it was the family’s choice to perform the ritual on their child but that it was beyond the realm of medicine and neither the hospital nor the doctors who treated Rizky could endorse or be held responsible for the consequences.

Belief in the supernatural, including spiritual healing, remains prominent in some parts of Indonesia. The latest draft revision to the country’s criminal code includes laws that would make it a criminal offense for an individual to make claims of supernatural powers that could lead to the pain or suffering of others.

Related: Dangdut singer Irma Bule gets bitten by cobra on stage, keeps singing for 45 minutes before she dies

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