Impalement survivor taking on today’s Comrades challenge

Daniel de Wet and his wife Lizl on day 15 of his 19-day recovery at Netcare Milpark Hospital. A metal industrial crowbar impaled Mr De Wet in a freak accident on a gold mine in the area.

‘Just three-and-a-half years ago, my wife and colleagues were praying for my survival and, when I walked out of the hospital only 19 days later, we regarded it as a miracle from God. To think that I have now successfully qualified to take on the Comrades Marathon once more is truly remarkable and every day I am so grateful for the recovery I have made,’ he says. De Wet, an engineering supervisor at a mine in the area, was washing out a dam 3.5 km underground one afternoon in January 2015. He was using an extended crowbar to stir up the mud when he slipped. He looked down and, to his utter disbelief, he saw that the metal bar had penetrated his body in his groin area and had come out of his back, just below his shoulder blade. He recalls how the mine’s rescue team had to carry him perched awkwardly in a sitting position on a stretcher, as the metal bar protruding from his body was almost level with De Wet’s feet, making it impossible for him to lie down.
Having been brought up to surface level at a pace that would ensure that he did not suffer any adverse decompression effects, commonly known as ‘the bends’, an experienced team of Netcare 911 paramedics airlifted him to Netcare Milpark Hospital’s world-class, level-one trauma centre.
When he arrived, two surgical teams, led by renowned trauma surgeons, Prof. Kenneth Boffard and Prof. Elias Degiannis, were ready to operate: one team concentrating on his injuries in the abdomen and one on those in the chest area. Once the extended crowbar was pulled completely free of his body, the doctors saw that the impalement had caused significant damage, destroying one kidney and damaging his small bowel and numerous blood vessels. Although De Wet lost a kidney, he made rapid progress and was discharged from hospital just 19 days later. ‘Day by day, I have regained my strength and I have managed to qualify for the 2018 Comrades Marathon this year. I am dedicating my run to every single rescue worker, paramedic, firefighter, and especially to Netcare 911, Netcare Milpark Hospital and Prof. Boffard. Before my accident, I had run the Comrades Marathon six times and, during my initial recovery, it seemed I would never be able to take part in this gruelling ultramarathon ever again,’ he says.
On Sunday, however, he will be taking on the challenge of this year’s Comrades Marathon with his running club, the Carleton Harriers, wearing race number 49470. De Wet acknowledges that the race will be a challenge. ‘I think the hardest part is when you realise you are running out of time to complete the race but your legs are so tired. You just need to find the strength to push yourself to make up time.’‘I am fortunate to have an amazing support base, particularly my wife, and there are so many people encouraging me.
I have many friends and guys who run with me, and they have helped me through the difficult times. I will never forget what the Netcare Milpark Hospital team and Prof. Boffard did for me in saving my life. Every single day, I still feel blessed to be alive. I would really like to thank every person who dedicates himself or herself to saving lives and giving people like me a second chance,’ he concluded.

Scan images show how the industrial crowbar penetrated Mr De Wet’s body, going in between his legs and coming out his back, just below his shoulder blade.

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