Seven years ago at the age of 3, Ubuko Mpotulo from East London had both his legs and a finger amputated after being diagnosed with Meningococcal Septicaemia. This condition caused damage to his blood vessels, narrowing of his arteries and ultimately the cutting off of the blood supply, resulting in the amputations.
Despite coming from a disadvantaged background, Ubuko has been awarded a Bursary to attend Selborne Primary, after the Educators and Governing body saw his resilience and perseverance shine through his Disability.
Ubuko’s disposition has also captured the hearts of his medical team and seven Iron Man athletes.
“I finally met Ubuko and those of you who have had the privilege to meet him will understand that he only has to look at you once and you are done, the mischievous smile and determination in his eyes caught my heartstrings.” – says prosthetics specialist, Marissa Nel, who has personally committed, jointly with Icelandic prosthetic supplier Ossur, to cover Ubuko’s medical costs that amount to about R148 000 a year.
According to Nel, his socket will likely need to be changed in the next 6 to 8 months, as well as his alignment adjusted and some prosthetic parts replaced. This will continue until he stops growing which could amount to at least another 14 to 16 times before the age of 18. This will be a long-term struggle for him unfortunately.
Ubuko has also inspired a group of 7 Round Tablers from East London, who have decided to take on the 70.3 Ironman challenge on 27 January 2019 to contribute towards Ubuko’s ongoing medical costs, through a campaign launched on donations based crowdfunding platform, BackaBuddy.
“Ubuko’s character and perseverance to improve himself are unmatched. He isn’t simply adapting to his prosthetics, he has relished the opportunity to seize his moment and make it count. Not only has he taken each step in his progress with enthusiasm, he has flourished.” Says Round Tabler, Ryan Baisley (37)
For the past 6 months, the team met 3 to 4 times a week, starting at 4 am, to do triathlon specific training to prepare for the one of the toughest endurance events. The event, organized by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), consists of a 3.86 km swim, 180.25 km bicycle ride and 42.20 km marathon without breaks.
“Out of the 7 athletes competing, 4 are novices to the Triathlon world and many of us started off as being really unfit. On the days when our legs were in pain from 60km cycle sessions into blistering hot headwind, we would remind ourselves how Ubuko feels everyday and the discomfort he has lived with his whole life.” – says Baisley.
To wish the team luck, Ubuko will meet the whole team, many for the first time, at the Ironman Expo, where he will also have an opportunity to view the latest triathlon gear and equipment and experience the exhibition before the event takes place.
“We hope the public will continue to support our BackaBuddy campaign. We may not be able to change the entire world, but by trying to change Ubuko’s world, we might make a difference in his life that inspires him to pay it forward to the next person that deserves it.” – says Baisley
The BackaBuddy campaign went live on the 15 of January 2019 and has thus far raised R13 166.78 with contributions from 24 donors towards the fundraising target of R50 000.
If you’d like to support the Iron Man athletes in raising money for Ubuko, click here.