Walter Nyamukondiwa–Kariba Bureau
When four crocodiles attacked Alexander Chimedza of Nyamunga in Kariba in January, his chances of survival were low, but he managed to beat them off with help from colleagues on the shore.
A good medical attention in his 40 days in hospital, with four operations, put him on a path to recovery. The four operations include re-constructive surgery for a shattered Achilles tendon, delicate skin grafting and installation of metal plates to assist healing and future mobility, although for the moment some serious home nursing is needed from wife Primrose Madufu as his injuries continue to mend and mobility slowly returns.
Chimedza figures he was at the wrong place at the wrong time when he went to look for red worms to bait his fishing hooks near the Nyamhunga sewage ponds, an area where weed growth is strong, providing a perfect area for crocodiles to ambush their prey.
The worms were needed since his wife Primrose wanted the Kariba bream instead of the tiger fish that Chimedza had been catching recently. “My wife said that she had enough of the tiger fish and wanted the bream when I left home to fish like I always did during those days,” said Chimedza.
“The crocodiles must have been waiting for me because the moment I just touched the weeds, I was attacked. First, one of them tried to grab my left hand, but I instinctively dodged, but another one grabbed my right hand.”
The crocodile dragged him in the water, twisted six times in one direction before changing to the other side.
“As soon as I avoided being grabbed on the left hand, I felt another crocodile grabbing my right hand,” said Chimedza.
“It pulled me into the water and twisted in one direction and at that point I realised that my hand would break if I resisted. So, I allowed my hand to go in the direction it turned.”
As he got up, he felt another crocodile grab him by the thigh before another one clutched to his Achilles tendon, breaking it. It is at this point that one of the most extraordinary things happened.
Chimedza says he saw an opening and he thrust his hand into the crocodile mouth as it grabbed his right hand and thinks he killed the crocodile as water flooded into its stomach.
This, scientists contend, is a sure way of killing a crocodile. Friends led by Edwin Mupande were pelting the crocodiles with stones and this helped to beat off the attack.
“As I thrust my hand into the crocodile’s mouth, some of the stones that were being thrown from outside must have hit the crocodile,” said Chimedza. “That, coupled with the large volumes of water that flowed into its mouth must have led to its death because it let me go and I saw it seeming lifeless afterward.”
Chimedza was pulled out of the water with the aid of a stick and, in the next lucky break, an ambulance was passing by and took him to Kariba District Hospital where he was stabilised.
His family later decided to take him to Mutenderi Hospital, just across the Chirundu Border Post in Zambia. Chimedza does not recall the journey to Mutenderi as he had passed out. Then began a delicate process of healing and restoration.
“They would clean the deep wounds with various medicines before they told me to buy two bottles of honey which helped to prevent the wounds being septic through killing bacteria,” he said.
“That was done in the first 10 days before I had operations, including skin grafting and one to repair my shattered Achilles tendon.”
For 40 days, Chimedza was in hospital and his bill which included surgery and bed cost US$360.
At least five metal plates have been inserted into his body to help rejoin broken bones.
All but one metal plate are temporary and will be removed. The fifth is a platinum plate on the right shoulder which will remain for life. His right hand arm was moving freely on the shoulder socket and needed this permanent platinum plate to hold it firm.
Chimedza’s right arm can no longer move.
Doctors have cautioned that he should not move his right leg where a crocodile snapped his Achilles tendon. They have joined the torn tendon, but it needs time to heal before he can move it. Supportive of her husband, Primrose could not accompany him to Zambia owing to cost considerations, but has been with him since he returned, attending to his every need.
“My wife has been behind me 100 percent and if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be able to survive. She is an angel sent from above,” said Chimedza. The shy Primrose said she was obliged to stand with her husband. Her challenge, she said, comes when she has to leave home to restock groceries or for other errands as Chimedza now needs total supervision.
Chimedza said he needed a wheelchair to relieve the pressure on his wife.
“At least I will be able to do some movements without burdening my wife,” he said.
He also appealed for assistance to enable his wife to undertake some self-help project so that she could take care of him and their two-year old child.
The encounter has redefined Chimedza’s life, but he has not lost hope of one day being able to look after his family.