By Jessica Kartalija

BALTIMORE (WJZ)–Five months ago a heat stroke nearly killed a 32-year old Maryland man.

Thanks to technology and the surgeons at University of Maryland Shock Trauma, he not only survived, but his life is almost entirely back to normal.

WJZ’s Jessica Kartalija has more.

Pastry chef Doug Wetzel was a mile and a half from finishing a triathlon when he suddenly collapsed.

He was flown to Shock Trauma where he was hooked up to a Molecular Absorbents Recirculation System (MARS) to support is liver and prevent organ failure.

“He gets here quickly–that’s a huge advantage, secondly, we have 24/7 people who are instantly available to respond to his particular needs,” said Dr. Thomas Scalea. “He gets rapidly assessed and rapidly cared for.  Lastly, we have this piece of equipment and there’s no question in my mind that this saved his life.”

“We made the decision that this was going to be a process that he would not recover from without a transplant,” said Dr. Rolf Barth.

“They’re like–you had a heat stroke and then they said your liver failed and you have a new liver now and I said, ‘no I don’t’ and they said, ‘look under your gown,’ I’m like, ‘oh, there’s a scar there,'” said Wetzel.

Now, after several surgeries and physical therapy.

“The scars are there, and they’re good reminders and they’ll make good stories,” Wetzel said.

Kartalija: “How fortunate for you that you had the University of Maryland Medical Center here?”

Wetzel: “My whole life is saved because of that hospital. I am very fortunate to know they have the mars system there and those doctors they don’t like to lose which is really good for me.”

Doug also suffered a minor stroke–affecting his speech, and vision–which improves daily

“After all this, I just wanted to be normal again. I didn’t want to be the guy in the wheelchair or with the walker.  I just wanted normalcy so bad,” he said.

His new normal is an appreciation for the little things.

“Its like, the unpredictibilities in life are really nice. It made me realize that life is short, so I appreciate things a lot more, and that’s a good thing,” said Wetzel.

Shock Trauma is the only one in Maryland to use MARS to provide liver support and prevent multi-organ failure.

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