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After near-death experiences, George Dewitt’s passion for racing is his stress reliever for life

George Dewitt

George Dewitt

George Dewitt is a living miracle. In the last three years, three times he escaped the grasp of death. He attributes his survivals from his bizarre near death experiences to his belief in God.

“I feel lucky, very much so, but there must be some reason I’m still around,” said Dewitt. “God has allowed me to get through these things. I thought I’d died, but I didn’t. That’s OK with me.”

The 54 year old participant of marathons and triathlons has been a runner for 40 years and has more than 10 marathons, 25 triathlons and 25 10K races to his credit and is currently ranked as one of the top runners from the immediate Madison-Huntsville area after arriving in Madison in July, 2005. Dewitt loves nature and all its beauty and that is one of the main reasons he loves road races of all types. He claims his passion for racing is a stress reliever from life.

Dewitt has also witnessed first-hand how life can end at any given moment…or so it should have.

Near-Death Experiences

An image of near perfect health, Dewitt, a design engineer at Adtran, woke out of a deep sleep one morning in October, 2009 and tried to get out of bed. But he suddenly became blind, nauseous, and had severe balance issues. He knew he had some type of stroke.

Dewitt’s wife, Kathryn, of 32 years, rushed him to the hospital. Where, upon arriving, his sight became double vision. He underwent a CAT scan and MRI.

Results indicated he had suffered a large cerebellum stroke. He was in ICU for four days and spent an additional four days in the hospital recovering from the effects of the stroke that could have ended his life. His taste buds didn’t work and he had trouble with his walking gate and used a walking cane for two weeks after his discharge.

There seemed to be no logical reason why he suffered the stroke, but doctors believe he suffered a blood clot to his brain when he awoke and tried to get out of bed that one morning. The clot, they believe, came from his heart where doctors think he had a condition of what is termed as a hole in his heart.

“I was on blood thinners for a long time and I felt fortunate to be alive,” said Dewitt.

In February, 2011, Dewitt went to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville for a procedure where heart doctors inserted a new device that was a plug they inserted into his heart. The plug was inserted through an artery in his groin and pushed up through his body until it was guided to securely plug in the miniature hole in his heart. Once inserted, over a six month period the body sort of grew around the plug to assure complete success. Although only slightly sedated and awake for the entire procedure, Dewitt knew he escaped death for a second time.

Doctors soon gave him the all clear for Dewitt to resume his normal running, biking and swimming activities. In preparations for races he has been known to run 10 miles a day, six times a week, swim two days a week at the UAH Fitness Center and bike with fellow triathletes as many as three days a week.

“I felt good and didn’t worry about my health,” said Dewitt.

But soon that became an issue… in the blink of an eye.

Last August, while on a bike ride with fellow riders, the group was coming down from biking atop Monte Sano Mountain, which skirts the eastern side of the City of Huntsville. Riding his usual triathlon bike, Dewitt admittedly put on too much brake to his front wheel, making the bike come to an abrupt stop throwing him over the handlebars to the asphalt below.

He’s not sure how long he was unconscious, but he awoke and first thought he had suffered another stroke. He was fully checked out by doctors and a stroke was ruled out as the cause. He did suffer a concussion and a broken bone in his elbow. He knew it was a stupid move on his part to apply too much brake to the bike, especially going downhill.

Three months later, Dewitt was among the six-person Adtran Team that won the Ultra Division Ragnar Bike Relay held from Chattanooga to Nashville. The contest had each team member ride three six-mile segments. Dewitt performed perfectly.

Grateful And Humble

“I learned from my three experiences to be grateful to God to be able to do what I do and humbly accept what God has given me,” said Dewitt, who, with his wife, Kathryn, have five children ages 17 to 29. “I try to figure out exactly what I need to do to assist God in his talents he’s given me.”

Dewitt began running at age 13 after trying baseball, fencing and golf. He was also a drummer in his New Jersey high school marching band. A friend urged him to try out for the school’s cross country team. During the bad days of winter weather, Dewitt and his friend would run the halls of the school as training runs. All of which, were designed to pass by the school’s cheerleader squad.

He soon moved to Potomac, Maryland, completed high school where he was the No. 1 runner for the Winston Churchill High cross country team. His cross country, indoor track and outdoor track team each won the state championship and he finished among the top five in the state in each of the three sports. He attended Duke University where he earned his bachelors and masters degrees in electrical engineering.

“Between the ages of 18 to 39, I got away from running, but once I met the Masters age group (40-years), I took up the sport again and became very competitive at running once I arrived in North Alabama,” said Dewitt.

His only after affects from the stroke are some memory loss and some dizziness when he makes his turns while swimming during his workouts. No one can explain why that happens, but like his flare for running, biking and swimming, he doesn’t ask, he just accepts what he has and what will happen to him.

“The biggest challenge I have doing marathons and triathlons is I know I will hurt after the race as I’m getting older,” said Dewitt. “The satisfaction of it all is pushing through all of that and knowing it has been miracles I have yet another day to do what God has put me here to do.”