Xilombe Tlakula is a young hero. Two years ago, during the school’s annual team-building Outward Bound trip, the Hilton College student was involved in a rock-climbing accident.
A group of eight Hilton boys had reached Tseke Tseke Pass in Cathedral Peak in the Drakensberg Mountains when a boulder rolled over 10 metres and hit Tlakula. Bleeding profusely, it took more than four hours for rescuers to reach him.
Tlakula says his memory of that day is still clear. “We had walked about 100 m and seven boys were in front of me when a rock dislodged from above,” he said. “Instinctively, something just said, ‘Move to the left.’ It hit my right arm.”
He attributes post-surgical physiotherapy to his recovery. “I had to go to therapy for six months, where I was taught how to write with my left hand. Even now it’s not easy, but I manage.”
With plenty of support, Tlakula has immersed himself in school life again in KwaZulu-Natal, where he plays rugby, soccer and water polo and plans his future career path. “I have never wanted to back down from a challenge. I want to take advantage of the situation.”
He also uses his experience to motivate others to carry on and seek success. He has addressed pupils and teachers at St Nicholas Diocesan School and Cordwalles Preparatory School, both in KwaZulu-Natal. “Chatting to my peers motivates me as well,” he declares. “My message is simple. What I’m trying to convey to them is that it is up to them to determine what they can and are able to do.”
Tlakula has big plans to see the world, carrying the knowledge that he can survive almost anything. “There is a saying that once you are on top, send the elevator down to fetch the others. Others are not as lucky as me. I would like to give back.”
“Immediately I wondered what girls were going to think when they saw me!” says the young survivor with a smile. His good humour hides his true grit: when the ambulance eventually reached him, although he could not feel his arm, he knew he was bleeding badly. “I just told myself that I’m not ready to die. I said to myself that I have not done enough to allow myself to die.”
It was only at the hospital, when medical professionals told Tlakula that he would lose his arm and hand, that he gave in to his emotions.
Category: Summer 2015