By Mike Schuh

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — There are times when people don’t know just how many friends they have until they need help.

Doug Wetzel is such a man. As a pastry chef at Gertrude’s Restaurant at the Baltimore Museum of Art, he’s left his mark in Baltimore’s food circles.

Now as Mike Schuh reports, his friends are stepping up after he nearly died.

Wetzel was in the best shape of his life, and after a year of training, five weeks ago he competed in his first triathlon in Rock Hall. But then:

“He was a mile and a half from the end. It was during the last leg of the triathlon. He realized  he was in trouble, so he actually veered off the course and went to find help,” Craig Nickel, friend.

Wetzel is a pastry chef at Gertrude’s.

Heat stroke, 107 degree internal temperature and dehydration combined to kill his liver. Treated in Chestertown, he was flown to Shock Trauma.

“He was desperately, desperately ill. It wasn’t quite sure why,” Dr. Thomas Scalea, Shock Trauma.

Wetzel was stabilized. After being on the transplant list for only two days, there was a match.

Now his friends have stepped up.

This week, a fundraiser at the BMA called #DougStrong ran out of room. Restaurants had to be turned away.

It seemed everyone wanted to be there for the sold-out event.

Wetzel–the man of the hour–was there by video link. He’s now out of the hospital and at a rehab facility.

“He’s got a long ways to go, don’t get me wrong,” Dr. Scalea said. “But he’s just left, he’s starting the rehabilitative phase, lots of challenges left, but he’s alive to have those challenges.”

His spirits are high. He wants to return to work.

“You’ll see what it means to me when I start crying at any moment now,” said his father, Jim Wetzel. “It really is  tremendous to see this kind of support for my song. You don’t realize how many lives he’s touched, and what a community Baltimore really is.”

The sold-out fundraiser brought in $20,000 for Wetzel’s care and treatment.


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