Man who survived impalement on crowbar to do Comrades

Daniel de Wet dedicates his race to trauma surgeon, hospital team and rescue workers

Thursday, May 31 2018

When 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, he never imagined that he would now be making final preparations for taking part in his first Comrades Marathon 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 Marathon once more is truly remarkable and every day I am so grateful for the recovery I have made,” Mr De Wet says.

Pic: Daniel de Wet and his wife Lizl on day 15 of his 19-day recovery at Netcare Milpark Hospital. Mr De Wet was impaled by a metal industrial crowbar while working at a gold mine near Carletonville, Gauteng.

“Day by day, I have regained my strength and this year I have managed to qualify for the 2018 Comrades Marathon. I am dedicating my run to every single rescue worker, paramedic, firefighter, and especially to Netcare 911, Netcare Milpark Hospital and trauma surgeon Professor Kenneth Boffard.”

“Before my accident in 2015, I ran the Comrades Marathon six times, and during my initial recovery after the accident it seemed to me that I would never be able to take part in this gruelling ultramarathon ever again,” Mr De Wet notes.

On 10 June, 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.

An unusual injury
One afternoon in January 2015, engineering supervisor Mr De Wet was working on washing out a dam 3.5km underground at a mine in Carletonville, using an extended crowbar to stir up the mud, when he suddenly slipped. Mr De Wet looked down and, to his utter disbelief, saw that the metal bar had penetrated his body entering his groin area and coming 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 Mr De Wet’s 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 Netcare Milpark Hospital’s world-class, level-one trauma centre by an experienced team of Netcare 911 paramedics.

When he arrived 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 extended crowbar was pulled completely free of Mr 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 Mr De Wet lost a kidney, he made rapid progress and was discharged from hospital just 19 days later.

As a token of his appreciation, Mr De Wet presented the 1.8 metre metal rod that was removed from his body as a gift to Professor Boffard and Netcare Milpark Hospital. 

Ready to take on Comrades again
Mr De Wet 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.”

Lodox 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.

“I will never forget what the Netcare Milpark Hospital team and Professor Boffard did for me 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 concluded.


Issued by:           Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare Milpark Hospital and Netcare 911
Contact:               Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville or Estene Lotriet-Voster
Telephone:        (011) 469 3016
Email:                   [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]a, or [email protected]