It is with a heavy heart that we must inform you of the passing of our dear friend and colleague, Steven Dewaele. Steven was an integral member of the NYSORA-Europe CREER (Center for Research Education and Enhanced Recovery) at ZOL (Ziekenhuis Oost-Limburg) Hospital, in Genk, Belgium. He was the fuel that kept the wheels turning at the hospital and will be dearly missed. He participated in many of NYSORA’s International and National missions and was one of the most dedicated members of our team.
Last week, Steven geared up to participate in a 330-kilometer trail race in the beautiful Aosta valley in Italy. After the race, he set out on walk through the Gran Paradiso mountains and had an unfortunate accident.
Steven was a beautiful human being of seraphic proportion. We have made it our mission to immortalize his name so that his contribution to our lives and to Anesthesiology may never be forgotten. Below is an interview with Steven, that occurred the night before he began his trail race, which perfectly outlines his unbreakable and dedicated personality.
Never to be forgotten… Steven Dewaele.
Lore (Wife), Mona, Llynn, Tuunde, and Lasse (their four children)
I studied in Kortrijk, West Flanders for 3 years and spent the other 4 in Leuven
I specialized in Antwerp, Aalst and New York to gain experience in an academic and private setting
Sports-Judo and then running?
Well, with Judo I always had to train inside my club and at fixed hours. I would always have bruises on my face and body after training. With running, when you see patients, it doesn’t show. I could avoid that issue with running. It was more accessible.
What got you into running?
Training Judo competitively didn’t make sense any more. I was so preoccupied becoming a doctor and couldn’t make it to training anymore. I have a younger brother, Karel, and his coach said that I had a talent for running so I decided to switch sports.
How long is the race? Distance and Time.
The race is 350KM and we actually end up climbing 25,000m. In total, I look to finish the race in 100 hours.
What got you into long distance running?
Well, I started off running shorter distances, regular 5k, 10k road races. The longer the race, the more the distance began to grow on me. There was something in me that always wanted to go further. After about 35 of these shorter marathons I signed up for a 50k trail (off road) race. I loved it. The transition to longer races was a very natural process for me.
Do you have a special diet?
Before, when I was running these shorter marathons I did have one. But now I eat what I like, even during the race. I try to behave as normally as possible. It keeps me sane. My stomach would get upset if I would try and survive on the synthetic products they sell for energy and carbohydrates. During the race I often eat cheese, sandwiches and nuts. Most importantly, I always put salt in my water.
How do you physically prepare yourself for a run like this?
The preparation has been a process for many years having run all of these marathons, short and long. Running anything further than regular marathon you have to prepare your body for some sort of extra dimension. I would often try and run at night. Even if I felt tired after work I would force myself to run. Sometimes I would even run a 60k on a full stomach after a dinner party. I would do this once in awhile to get used to some of the conditions and situations on the trail. I also run some marathons, 42k and a trail 50k to get used to distance.
How do mentally prepare yourself for a run like this?
When I run I try cutting the total distance in shorter parts. For example, I don’t think of the race as a 350k. I would always think of the next 10k as a reward. I also know that everyone in the race is also suffering so that helps as well. I have also participated in this race before so i can overcome it. I am prepared to experience bad patches, tiredness, and pain. I’m mentally prepared to deal with issues. I know my stomach gets upset so I have medications to help me tackle that. Anything from tapeing feet and other muscles–there are a lot of things you think about just in preparation for the run. Tiredness is the toughest mental obstacle to overcome.
What is your mindset while you are running?
I try to have nothing on my mind. I like to feel my heart, hear my breathing, focus on the path, and everything else doesn’t matter. It’s a form of meditation, observing the nature, being one with your body and nature. If you’re really tired there can be some hallucinations. That can be fun. I try not to forget to eat, and to concentrate on what my body is telling me.
It also helps to have company, to have someone running at the same pace as you. The second two days are much harder. I don’t sleep much and I sleep for 5 hours total during the entire race. Your bed is always uncomfortable so the sleep is always superficial.
Are you doing this just to complete the race or win it?
This is my second time running it. The first time I just wanted to finish. Now I want to run it in less that 100 hours. I also have a plane home that I need to catch. My first goal is to enjoy. It’s a journey. I want to reach the same feeling of fulfillment at the end. When it comes to this race I have a calm and relaxed mindset. I think of it as a long meditation: for 4 days nothing else matters except for running.
How do you think anesthesiology and running compare?
Anesthesiology is hours of boredom and seconds of sheer terror and my running is just pure boredom. When you run a 350k you have to have a solid plan and have to know how to improvise and that helps during your daily practice. You have to be able to react when things get bad. During a race I can fall or be dehydrated. I need to be able to deal with these things. As an Anesthesiologist I am always in a dangerous environment and need to be ready for any complications.
When do you come back?
What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you finish the race?
If I have time I’ll have a beer or two and get home as soon as possible for the live NYSORA-ESRA broadcast on Thursday. I would also like to hold the moment of finishing the race for a while.