Bride-to-be's arm amputated five days before wedding after crocodile attack

2018-08-03 22:03
Zanele and Jamie as they wed. (Photo: Facebook)

Zanele and Jamie as they wed. (Photo: Facebook)

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She'd planned her dream wedding to the T – she’d picked the perfect dress to make her feel like a princess, family and friends were invited to a venue she’d carefully chosen and she’d spent hours deciding on just the right décor.

Nothing would stop former professional tennis player Zanele Ndlovu (25) from walking down the aisle to wed the man of her dreams – not even having her arm amputated five days before saying “I do”.

The Zimbabwean beauty and her British groom, Jamie Fox (27), have given new meaning to the vow “in sickness and in health” after the couple wed while the bride’s arm was freshly wrapped in bandages. The only thing that was different to what Zanele had planned was the venue: instead of the sports club she’d chosen for her big day the ceremony was held in a hospital chapel.

“I spent a lot of time preparing for my wedding day, running around for a venue, décor and so forth. I didn’t know fate would have me wed in a hospital chapel, with one limb missing,” the newlywed said.

Zanele’s arm was ripped off by a crocodile in a horror attack in late April. Her fiancé’s family had flown in from Kent in England for the wedding and Zanele wanted to show them her home country’s beauty ahead of the dream day. They were canoeing on the Zambezi River when disaster struck.

“The waters were very calm,” Zanele recalled.

“We had guides and there were about seven canoes in the water. The crocodile just jumped out of the water and bit a chunk of my arm together with the side of the boat.”

The canoe deflated and Zanele said everything happened very quickly.

“The crocodile bit me again and pulled me into the water. My husband was thrown out on the opposite side so the boat was between us.Jamie couldn’t believe what he was seeing. “I thought it was some joke and someone was pranking us. It took about five seconds for me to see it was real,” he said.

He bravely came to her rescue, Zanele added.

“Jamie swam over to where I was struggling with the crocodile as it tried to pull me to the bottom of the river. He grabbed my waist and with the other hand he rained blows on the crocodile.”

Jamie was modest when picking up the story.

“The crocodile finally let go,” he said.

He carried Zanele, whose right arm was hanging by a shred just above her elbow, to safety with the help of shocked river guides. Zanele had lost a lot of blood and Jamie applied a makeshift tourniquet to her arm. She could see he was shocked, but Jamie kept reassuring her she’d be fine.

“The pain was excruciating but with my husband by my side I summoned the strength to fight through it.” Zanele was airlifted to a hospital in Victoria Falls before being transferred to Bulawayo’s Mater Dei Hospital where surgeons amputated her arm. But they didn’t only save her life – the medical team helped to make Zanele’s dream come true.

She was devastated to learn she couldn’t leave the hospital for the wedding she’d painstakingly planned. But her despair turned to delight when Mater Dei medical staff stepped in and hosted a romantic ceremony helmed by a Methodist pastor in the hospital’s chapel – on the very day she and Jamie were set to wed.

“This has never happened before, it’s quite exciting,” a staff member told Sunday News as the little chapel filled up with curious well-wishers. “You can tell people are all excited about this.”

Meanwhile, a few blocks away at Busters Sports Club in Hillside, Bulawayo, guests had gathered for the ceremony, unaware of the drama – and they were horrified when family members told them what had happened. However, the loved-up couple insisted the guests celebrate their union in their absence and they were filmed toasting the couple at the reception. At the hospital chapel the bride was breathtaking in a short-sleeved lace dress and seemed oblivious to the bandages, having eyes only for her hero.

“I have a wonderful husband,” Zanele said. “My wedding was the best. We watched the other ceremony on videos and we saw photos. It was beautiful. I really wish we were there but I’m so happy the wedding proceeded despite all the drama.”

Zanele refuses to dwell on her near-death experience.

“I get depressed by people who come here and start crying, you know,” she said.

The young woman, who has played international federation tournaments across Southern Africa, will still be able to play tennis as she’s left-handed. The couple plans to relocate to the United Kingdom, but for now Zanele spends her days comforting relatives. She’s just been discharged from Mater Dei, but she’s still recovering. “I know people feel pity for me at this moment but being sorrowful doesn’t help the situation,” she said. “I look forward to family and friends who are going to make me laugh. There’s always something positive to celebrate. Just look at how beautiful this view is. Sunshine and green, it’s beautiful.”

It’s this optimism that attracted Jamie to Zanele. It was love at first sight for the charity worker when he met her in 2016 while on a working trip to Zimbabwe. “I knew then I wanted to marry her,” he said. Jamie visited the country a few more times and started dating Zanele. “I finally proposed in February this year at Antelope Park in Gweru. I was at my most nervous because I wanted her to say yes. She said, ‘Yes’.” After Jamie paid lobola Zanele set to work furiously planning their wedding. The day may have been adapted because of the circumstances but for Jamie it’s miraculous he has a wife at all. “There’s no other way to explain it. “I love her even more. This incident made me feel the depth of our vows even more. For better or worse, in sickness and in health – that’s just how it’s going to be.”


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