I checked back for the weather conditions on May 30, the day Doug Wetzel competed in a triathlon on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Temperatures that morning ranged from 71 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. By the time Wetzel suffered his heatstroke while running in Rock Hall, his body temperature had reached at least 101 degrees. It topped out at close to 107.
Wetzel, 32, is executive pastry chef at Gertrude’s restaurant in the Baltimore Museum of Art. He’s a clever, creative and congenial fellow. Going into the Rock Hall International Triathlon he consider himself to be in good shape. He had completed the Druid Hill Sprint Triathlon in August 2014. Rock Hall represented his first attempt at a longer Olympic triathlon.
On the morning of May 30, Wetzel finished the triathlon's 1500-meter swim, and he completed its 24.9-mile bike course.
In this weekend’s Roughly Speaking podcast -- it’s the third and final segment of the episode -- you will hear Wetzel describe haltingly what he remembers of the first two legs of the triathlon and the 6.2-mile run. The heatstroke affected his memory; some of what he tells us in the podcast is what others, including doctors, have told him about his trauma. That includes the fact that Wetzel took a spill while on his bicycle during the second part of the triathlon. He got up and kept going, he says, but the injury from that tumble might have contributed to his heatstroke.
Wetzel was unconscious when he arrived at University of Maryland Shore Medical Center in Chestertown. Clinicians ran tests and gave him fluid and antibiotics intravenously. By the time he was medevaced to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, his muscles were breaking down and his kidneys were shutting down. Dr. Thomas Scalea, physician-in-chief at the shock trauma center, did not think Wetzel would survive.
But he did. The University of Maryland team saved his life. Wetzel underwent an emergency liver transplant and, after a hospital stay, he went into physical therapy and rehabilitation. (He still has his kidneys.)
This week marks six months since the transplant. Wetzel has returned to work at Gertrude’s. He walks at times with a cane. But he seems to be in good spirits.
When he came to The Baltimore Sun podcast studio the other day, he brought an assortment of doughnuts he had made earlier that day in Gertrude’s kitchen. One of the doughnuts was topped with crumbles from Baltimore’s famous Bergers Cookies, a good sign that Wetzel is returning to his old form.
For additional information on heatstroke, please see this Q&A with a doctor at UMMC.