By Marisa Fockema (The Witness) — Originally published in Sport24
Hennie Muller, 59, from Tierpoort near Bloemfontein knows he could easily have drowned in this year’s Midmar Mile, just like Thabo van Straten.
But unlike Van Straten, whose body was found five days after the race on Thursday, about 800m from the start, Muller survived to tell his story. His wife, Marita, 58, said it is a “Midmar miracle”.
According to the Witness website, Muller was 30m from the finish line, swimming in his sixth Midmar Mile, when an artery burst in his heart. He finished the race, although he cannot remember anything of that last 30m.
He said he recalled walking over the finish line, but not receiving the medal or hanging it around his neck. He then moved to the exit where the crowds waited.
“There I lost consciousness.”
About three minutes after the artery had burst, he suffered a heart attack and his heart stopped beating for 20 minutes.
“If that artery had burst 60 to 90 seconds earlier, I could have been part of the drowning statistics. It [swimming] is not like running or cycling – you just disappear under the dark water.”
Fortunately for Muller, a medical doctor and sister were next to him when he collapsed. Paramedics joined them to apply first aid, after which they loaded Muller into an ambulance.
Muller said the ambulance had hardly passed through Midmar’s gates when he awoke.
“I could talk, remember my name, count numbers and also told them where my family was.”
He was stabilised at Howick Hospital and then treated for four nights at St Anne’s Hospital in Pietermaritzburg.
Hans Hartman, a paramedic on the scene, who had also assisted Angus Buchan after the evangelist had a heart attack on his farm during a Mighty Men event, said Muller’s case was unique in his 30 years as a paramedic. He said in such cases, patients first go into a coma, after which they normally suffer brain damage.
Muller, who has three children and 10 grandchildren, said his experience shows that God has a purpose with his life.
“He [God] lets miracles happen.”