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NEWTON MULOLO: THE LONG ROAD TO RECOVERY

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FQM and other well-wishers step in to save a boy’s leg after a vicious crocodile attack left him with life-altering injuries 

NEWTON MULOLO

KITWE, ZAMBIA – Newton Mulolo was walking home from school when he slipped and fell into a stream. What happened next was the stuff of nightmares. Newton, a grade 6 pupil at a Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) school in Kwacha Township, had walked across the makeshift bridge that runs across Kitwe’s Mindolo stream for years without incident – until that fateful day in December 2020 when he was attacked by a crocodile.

A Chimwemwe East resident, the 16-year-old was crossing the stream that separated the two townships when he lost his footing and fell into the waters below. His friends initially thought he was pranking them as he screamed for help. It was only when his friend Michael spotted the tail of the crocodile he realised the danger Newton was in. He had not come up for air, and in a panic, Michael ran along the banks looking for his friend.

He suspected that Newton had been dragged down by the crocodile. His fears were confirmed when he saw the crocodile with his friend’s leg locked in its jaws performing the death roll – a move meant to subdue and drown prey. Without a second thought, Michael jumped into the water, and after a brief struggle with the large reptile pulled Newton to safety. He had injured his hand in the daring rescue, but his focus remained solely on saving his friend’s life. Newton was rushed to hospital where it was quickly discovered that he had suffered a broken upper leg. Despite receiving treatment, the road to recovery was anything but smooth.

Doctors would soon discover that not only were the teenager’s wounds not healing as expected, but he had also developed chronic osteomyelitis; a severe, persistent, and incapacitating infection of the bone and bone marrow that if left untreated would lead to amputation. To save his leg, Newton urgently needed specialist surgery to remove the infected marrow and repair the damaged section with a bone graft from his hip. However, his family could not afford the expensive procedure and time was running out. Five months after the attack, Newton’s plight received public attention when his mother, Albertina Mwape, went on a radio show to appeal to well-wishers for help. Sophie Peach, a First Quantum Minerals (FQM) employee heard of the boy’s predicament from her children’s swim coach, Frederick Mwanza. She took it upon herself to rally as much support for Newton as possible. Sophie paid to have Newton transferred to Mary Begg hospital in Ndola for specialist treatment. After extensive examination, Doctors revealed that it would cost K130,000 to give Newton a chance to lead a normal life again.

Thanks to his mother’s plea on radio and Sophie’s lobbying, Newton’s family raised just over K60,000 through donations. Though they were more than halfway shy of their intended target, the funds raised were enough to cover daily hospital bills, wound dressings, and physiotherapy sessions. Despite the continuous flow of generous donations, progress towards the K130,000 target was agonisingly slow with each passing day bringing the boy closer to an amputation. 

Sophie brought Newton’s story to the attention of her supervisors at FQM, who were glad to cover the balance. With the target amount met, the hospital carried out the first phase of the operation and Newton is now well on his way to making a full recovery from the harrowing ordeal. As for the hero of the story, Michael, he has also been receiving support to help treat his hand injury and attends the tuition sessions with Newton. FQM continues to sponsor Newton’s stay in Ndola as he awaits the second phase of the operation. The Mulolo family have conveyed their eternal gratitude to First Quantum Minerals, Lua Lua Truck parts, Kitwe Moths club, Sophie Peach, and several other generous donors who stayed anonymous for their support in getting Newton the treatment he needed.

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