Johannesburg - Three-and-a-half years ago Daniel de Wet regained consciousness in Netcare Milpark Hospital after a 1.8-metre metal industrial crowbar penetrated his body 3.5km underground at a mine in Carletonville. Today the six-times Comrades veteran is making final preparations to run the ultra-m arathon again, for the first time since the accident.
“Just three-and-a-half years ago, my wife and colleagues were praying for my survival, and when I was able to walk 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 once more is truly remarkable and every day I am so grateful for the recovery I have made,” De Wet says.
“Day by day, I have regained my strength and this year I have managed to qualify for Comrades . I am dedicating my run to every single rescue worker, paramedic, firefighter, and especially to Netcare 911, Milpark Hospital and trauma surgeon Professor Kenneth Boffard.”
“Before my accident in 2015, I ran the Comrades six times, and during my initial recovery it seemed to me that I would never be able to take part again,” De Wet said.
On 10 June, however, he will be taking on the challenge with his running club, the Carleton Harriers, wearing race number 49470.
The accident happened o ne afternoon in January 2015, when De Wet, an engineering supervisor, was working on washing out a dam 3.5km underground, using an extended crowbar to stir up the mud. He slipped and the metal bar penetrated his body entering his groin area before coming out of his back, just below his shoulder blade.
Lodox scan images show how the industrial crowbar penetrated Daniel de Wet's body, going in between his legs and coming out 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 his feet, making it impossible for him lie down.
“I was talking the whole time, trying to keep the other guys calm,” he remembers.
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’, he was airlifted to Milpark Hospital’s trauma centre.
Two surgical teams, led by renowned trauma surgeons, Professor Boffard and Professor 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 crowbar was pulled completely free of De Wet’s 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.
De Wet later presented the crowbar as a gift to Professor Boffard and Netcare Milpark Hospital.
He acknowledges that the ultramarathon will be a challenge. “I think the hardest aspect is when you realize that you are running out of time to complete the race but your legs are so tired but you just need to find the strength to push yourself to make up time.
“This year the race starts in Pietermaritzburg, and I prefer the ‘down run’, although the Comrades is never a walk in the park,” he says.
“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 Milpark team and Professor Boffard did in saving my life. I still feel blessed every single day 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 said.
The Independent on Saturday