Kottayam: It is said he can sense if someone is on his way to him to be treated for snakebite and gets ready to receive him. A mere glance at the bite tells him which snake is responsible and he then proceeds to treat it.
These and many more stories abound about Father Antony Panackal, a CMI priest , who has healed thousands of snakebite victims over the last 40 years.
Even those written off by allopathic doctors have come alive at his touch. He modestly attributes his healing gift to ayurveda and the strength of prayer. Every time he treats a patient he begins the process with a prayer for divine help and the combination has seldom failed.
Seeing his healing touch, the Church has allowed him to continue treating people bitten by snakes, regardless of his other responsibilities.
"There's no need to be afraid of snakes, if you are cautious in handling them. I have caught many snakes over the last 40 years , but have never been bitten. The reason is I handle them with care and I dare say love," says Father Panackal, who runs the Vishachikilsta Kendram at Poomattam. He has often caught snakes and worn them round his neck like garlands, demonstrating his love and fascination for them.
Having learnt the art of healing under the tutelage of another priest, Brother Simon Moolekattil over four decades ago, Father Panackal is perhaps the only priest to treat snakebites. Although on an average he treats around 2000 people for snakebite in a year, he charges very little.
The bite of even the most poisonous snake is treatable, provided the medicine is applied at the right time and in the right proportion, he believes. "This is where regular treatment fails. By administering anti-venom without confirming whether the snake is poisonous or not can harm the patient", he warns.
Father Panackal grows the plants he needs for the treatment in the compound of his own institution, and has assistants to help him care for those who come to him.