By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
5/6/2013 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
It began as an ordinary day for Paul Templer at his job as a river guide Zambezi near Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. The owner of a river tour business, the at the time 27-year-old Templer had been taking people on trips along the stretch of the Zambezi for many years. That would all change in a deadly encounter with a hippopotamus where he would find himself upside down and head first up to his waist in the hippo's throat.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic online) - Hippos are not the docile, friendly creatures you find in storybooks and cartons. Hippos continue to kill around 300 people a year, making them the third biggest killer of humans after mosquitoes and box jellyfish, despite only living in certain parts of Africa.
Their gaping mouths span four feet and are lined with fearsome tusks. They're especially dangerous in the water, where the male bull hippos can become territorial.
Templer was well aware of the danger the creatures pose and knew to give them a wide berth. On the day of the attack he was accompanied by three apprentice guides - Mike, Ben and Evans, all in separate kayaks. All four were approaching the end of the tour when they came across a pod of around a dozen hippos wallowing quietly in the shallows.
Templer steered the group away from the danger before pausing a moment for Evans, who had been lagging slightly behind, to catch up. "I turned just in time to see Evans flying through the air before he splashed into the river." Templer immediately went back to help Evans who reached out his hand. Then all hell broke lose.
"My world went dark and strangely quiet, a few very long seconds ticked by as I tried to figure out what was going on.
"From my waist up I was not dry but I wasn't wet either not like my legs were I was head first down my waist down a hippo's throat. I pushed and I pulled and I wiggled about all to no avail.
"Then the monster loosened its grip long enough for me to escape. Bursting to the surface I came face to face with Evans.
"I remember looking up and I could see the different hues of green and yellow I watched my blood mingle with the water. I wondered what would happen first, if I'd bleed to death or if I'd drown."
One of the other apprentice guides, Mike, risked his own life to paddle back and help. Templer was able to grab hold of his Kayak and was hauled to the shore. But he was far from out of danger.
"I made the mistake of taking a look at myself," he continues. "My one arm from the elbow up had been crushed to a pulp and from the elbow down had been stripped of its flesh.
'Then a strange thing happened; I went incredibly calm and all the pain went away and I knew that it was my moment of choice. I knew right there and then I could shut my eyes I could drift off, I could call it a day or I could fight my way through this and I could stick around."
Templer had to endure a grueling eight hour journey to the nearest hospital in the city of Bulawayo. His left arm had to be amputated above the elbow, but the surgeons had managed to save his injured leg.
Just two years after the attack, he was back on the Zambeizi using a specially adapted kayak paddle to lead a three-month long Expedition.
Today, he is based in the U.S. where he runs his own speaking and coaching business and is married with three young children.
"What's Left of Me" was published late last year and is available though Amazon and digitally through the iTunes book store.
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