Change a Life Academy Media Release  No: CAL1904

 May 2019

 Embargo: None  Written by: Nick Tatham

Change a Life star survives mamba bite scare

Pietermaritzburg – Mthobisi Mzolo, a key member of Martin Dreyer’s Merchants Change a Life Running Academy has been released from hospital following a Black Mamba bite in February that left him in hospital for over three months.

Mzolo was tending to his uncle’s cattle in the Table Mountain area near Nagle Dam on 10 February following his win at the Eston Trail Run the previous day when he was bitten on the calf by the Mamba.

Fortunately for him his uncle was home and he had a car so they transported him to the Northdale hospital as quickly as possible.

He was transferred to ICU at Greys Hospital where they administered treatment following symptoms that suggested the bite was from a snake that has neurotoxic venom and were able to begin on doses of anti-venom.

The time that had lapsed between bite and treatment meant that Mzolo was in danger of succumbing to the bite, however he fell into a coma and remained there for three weeks.

During the period he was in a coma on life support, he had continuous seizures and there was a stage where they weren’t sure whether he was going to survive.

“It was heart wrenching to see Mthobisi comatose, such a super athlete,” said Dreyer. “By far my Academy’s fastest runner! Whatever challenge I threw his way in the form of hectic tough runs like the Otter Trail Run and the Cathedral Peak Challenge, he conquered and always finished with a smile, no matter how shattered he was”.

Slowly but surely his condition improved until he eventually came out of the coma. He was unable to speak although, remarkably, he was aware of what was happening around him.

His speech is beginning to return and only recently, he is able to whisper.

Since Mthobisi was hospitalized, a long standing joke between Dreyer & Mthobisi has been Dreyer urging him to get better quickly, because his Change a Life team mates are getting fat and lazy without him setting a cracking pace down in the Dusi Valley.

Mzolo’s uncle Mhlaba Mzolo was crucial in getting him to the hospital, but he played a major role in supporting him through the ordeal and now will be influential in his recovery.

“It’s still very emotional for me,” Mhlaba Mzolo said. “I spent every day next to Mthobisi’s bed from 5am to 9pm when he was in ICU.

“When he was just about to come out of his coma we could see that he was acknowledging us with his head and ears but his eyes weren’t open and he couldn’t speak.

“We saw him improving all the time and then his eyes opened and he continued to get better but he still has a long way to go.”

When speaking to people at the hospital Mzolo realised how incredible the recovery of Mthobisi was in that it was something that they had never encountered before.

“After two months in ICU they didn’t want to take him out because they called him their hero. He had done something that they hadn’t seen before.

“I remember the doctor saying ‘we learn as we live’.”

Mthobisi was discharged from Greys Hospital on Wednesday, 22 May having been in hospital for 101 days following the bite.

Being back at home has given them more hope that he will get back to his fighting best but they know that it is going to take a lot of time.

“The doctors said that it could take nine months for him to make a full recovery.

“He is very positive and so are we. He is still very weak and we have to care for him all the time.

“We are also doing physio at home as well as with the hospital and every day there is something positive happening. We see an improvement every day!

“It is going to be a long road but we would love to see him run again,” an emotional Mzolo added.


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One of Martin Dreyer's Change a Life Academy's strongest runners Mthobisi Mzolo pictured a week after coming out of three week coma following a black mamba bite that left him in hospital for 101 days. Supplied/
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Mthobisi Mzolo (left) and his Merchants Change a Life Running Academy team mate Mxolisi Zondi following their Cathedral Peak Challenge. Mzolo has been discharged from hospital following 101 days after he was bitten by a black mamba near Nagle Dam in February. Supplied/
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