UPDATE: Chainsaw attack victim recovering after surgery

Local triathlon event organiser Damian Bradley said Mhlengi Gwala was surprisingly positive when he visited him in hospital.

Mhlengi Gwala, the Ndwedwe athlete who’s brutal attack sent shockwaves across SA, is healing well and in good spirits.

The nightmare unfurled in the early hours of last week Wednesday, when Gwala was training on Rick Turner Road near UKZN.

He was on his way to meet friend and fellow triathlete and lifeguard Sandile Shange at King Edward Hospital when he was jumped by three men who dragged him off the road and proceeded to try cutting off his legs with a chainsaw.

Despite having mechanical issues with the chainsaw, the men decided to keep trying, eventually sawing all the way to the bone, severing most of the muscles, tendons and arteries in his leg but fortunately not hitting the main artery.

Eventually the attackers gave up and Gwala grabbed his phone to try calling the police, who did not respond.

Realising it was up to himself, Gwala crawled up to the road where he was spotted by a passing car and rushed to hospital.

Read the original story: Chainsaw attackers try to cut off Ndwedwe athlete’s legs

Since the attack, Gwala has said that he offered them his belongings but they clearly were not interested in robbing him. He also said his attackers did not speak Zulu, but another language which he could not understand.

He underwent a successful five hour operation on Thursday to repair the damage to his lower right leg. Team South Africa’s Olympic Doctor Kevin Subban visited him in his Durban hospital on Thursday to guide his recovery and rehabilitation plans.

“Considering the extent of the injury to his right calf, where he was cut right to the bone through nerves and blood vessels and the three main muscle groups, it is expected that the surgery took around five hours to complete,” said Subban.

The 26 year old has already regained feeling in his right foot, which has the medical team optimistic about his chances of recovery.

“Holding him in good stead is his pre-conditioning. He is fit and healthy which we hope will help him,” Subban said, adding that Gwala’s strong character would be an asset in his recovery.

SA Olympic Team doctor Kevin Subban visits triathlete Mhlengi Gwala in hospital where he is recovering from a saw attack. Photo: Gameplan Media.

Gwala’s recovery will be overseen by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Sport and Recreation-backed Elite Athlete Development Programme (EADP).

“The positive is that the muscles will heal faster but the concern is the neural side. The nerves will take longer to heal and sometime they don’t heal 100 percent. That, in my opinion, is our greatest concern at this stage,” Subban explained.

Police investigating the attack have yet to give any idea of motive for the incident, but the triathlon fraternity has said they will not be deterred from training.

Meanwhile, Gwala is reportedly very positive, and says he is tired of being in hospital already

“He has overcome a lot in his life to be where he is today, “said EADP director Dennis Jackson, speaking of Gwala’s well documented journey from drug and alcohol dependency. “This will stand him in good stead in his recovery.

“Not only will he have a great team around him for support but he will also have his fellow triathletes and many other athletes who are like a small family who have rallied and will continue to rally around him,” he added.

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Allan Troskie

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