Wouter Duinisveld

– Triathlete, Trainer, Author, and Motivational Speaker –

“Above all, thanks to my donor. I do not know you, but you know me. Thanks to you, my dreams come true. You are always with me, and together we will experience more beautiful moments.”

“I am deeply grateful to the person who donated me his heart. With my story I want to raise awareness for organ donation, I hope people will fill out the required forms. It takes less time than a warming up before a run, and it will help someone live a healthy and good life”

Wouter Duinisveld was born in 1977 in Voorburg in the western part of the province of South Netherlands. He works as a project manager and quality innovation manager at the Safety Haaglanden. Wouter has always been active since childhood, and he played rugby at the Hague Rugby Club and youth selection teams. When he was 20, he was forced to quit his favorite sport due to a shoulder injury. He started running in 2006 and discovered the triathlon sport. Ambitious as he is, he set the task to complete a full triathlon, so he joined the Triathlon Club Residence in The Hague, Netherlands. His health, however, changed dramatically. He got a virus, and that virus destroyed his heart… viral myocarditis it is called.

A viral infection reduced his heart function to less than 15 per cent in a mere two week period, and he was told he would only survive with a heart transplant. However, before the new heart was available, he suffered four heart attacks, reducing his heart function to only five percent. In 2006, Wouter came upon the waiting list for a donor heart. His own heart no longer worked, and during the time to transplantation, he survived thanks to an artificial heart.

Wouter’s Doctors implanted an artificial heart to assist his own. He lived with an artificial heart for months: battery powered, at night plugged into the socket. With great difficulty he was able to walk to the corner of the street. He couldn’t do anything anymore. His body lost its power and he needed to teach himself how to sit, stand and walk again. After nine months, a suitable heart was available and Wouter could start a new life. Becoming fit, and living as healthily as possible was his ultimate challenge. Practising a sport is the right way to do this, and fortunately that was already his passion. For Wouter, the necessary intensive use of medicines and limited amount of strain a donor heart can take do not allow extreme fluctuations and exertions. However, he was told endurance sports enable you to monitor your heart rate carefully and the sport is perfectly suited to realize optimum physical shape.

“Receiving an organ donor remains fortunately for most of us a subject that is beyond our reach,” Wouter says. Healthy avid sportsman, especially should they need not to worry that their own body where they blindly trust, let them down suddenly and without any signs. That was Wouter’s thought, until he was admitted with heart problems. “This message is unreal. I’ve never been anywhere so devastated. My life stopped. I had to do so much. I wanted to live with my girlfriend,” Wouter remembers. “I was just fascinated by triathlons, and I wanted to finish one,” he says.

The damage was so great that Wouter needed a heart transplant to still be able to live on. In December of 2006 he received a donor heart. He was transferred to the transplant department of the Erasmus Hospital in Rotterdam from Bronovo for a screening test. This is to determine whether a patient is actually eligible for a heart transplant. In early January of 2007, Wouter’s heart deteriorated rapidly. After severe stomach flu, he needed to spend a week in quarantine. After four severe cardiac arrests, doctors implanted a ventricular assist device to save his life. This happened just two months after he had walked!

After months in the hospital, Wouter could finally go home by the end of April. He has lived for nine months with this artificial heart. It is a medical miracle, he was finally able to return home. Again, in his own bed, drinking coffee in the sun, and with his girlfriend walking along the beach. Things that would normally be routine, he was enjoying it immensely. However, he needed to be very careful. The artificial heart, had its own limitations. “I had a limited physical condition, a continuous risk of infection and risk of failure of the device.”, Wouter remembers.

After his rehabilitation, Wouter started training again. He had a dream: he wanted to do a triathlon, and we wanted to become an Ironman triathlete as well. After two years, and in 2010 he finished for the first time a triathlon, and became the third person ever to achieve this. Later, Wouter participated in the Ironman 70.3 in Mallorca consisting of a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bicycle ride, and a half marathon 13.1-mile run. On July 6th 2014, Wouter was able to make his dream come true as he was able to finish the Ironman triathlon at Frankfurt in Germany, consisting of a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride and a marathon 26.2-mile (42.2 km) run. He is one of the few on earth doing such thing after undergoing a heart transplantation in 2007.

Until now, it is hard for Wouter to realize what has happened in recent times. In 2007, his family, his friends, and he went through hell, “but at the same time we are fortunate encountered.” Wouter says. “Luckily, I’ve been given a new chance to live,” he affirms. Wouter now has in mind he has the freedom to enjoy a piece for biking, walking or jogging again, and the opportunities we have in this life have become even more important.

Wouter wants to combine his passion for sports with his mission for more organ donors. He wants to show that an organ can give a new life, a life where dreams can be fulfilled. He wants to be an inspiration to anyone waiting or living with a donor organ. He is grateful for the life that has been awarded to him by someone he does not know every day and wants to honor his donor through to pursue his dreams. Wouter finds Team4Talent a unique opportunity. “I think it’s great to be part of a team with only ambitious and talented people, each with their own background section. By creating a team, each member may develop his or her own talent, whatever it may be, continue in order to achieve his or her own dreams and goals. “I firmly believe in this!”, he says.

He already worked as an independent personal trainer and group instructor all around his hometown of The Hague. But a person inspired him to go for more: Casper Visser from the International Health Spa encouraged me to open my own business. “That is what I wanted: my own, high quality, personal training studio. A dream was born,” Wouter says. Now that he has fulfilled his dream of having his own Fitness Center, he realizes that there are many beautiful experiences waiting for him in the future. “Because now, I get to share my dream with the people I will be training in my own gym, the goals we will achieve together, and the fun we will have while working out. I am already looking forward to it!”, he says.

Donate an organ is to give people a second chance at life, and Wouter is deeply grateful to the person who donated him his heart. With his story, he wants to raise awareness for organ donation; expecting people will fill out the required forms. It takes less time than a warming up before a run and it will help someone to live a healthy and better life. He also wants to raise awareness of Myocarditis, the disease that nearly killed him. It causes inflammation of the heart muscle, so it loses the ability to pump. Most of the time the patient can only be saved with a heart transplant. For more information, please visit www.ikworddonor.com. Team4Talent consists of athletes with international potential. Due to the good guidance in every area Team4Talent is about learning, and personal development. A team, which is working hard to fulfill Dreams. Visit us at: www.team4talent.com. To learn more about Wouter, and his inspiring book named “The Heartbeat of another, from transplantation to triathlon”, visit his website www.wouterduinisveld.nl.

Wouter in his own words

How does it feel to be an inspiration to others? Did you ever expect to become an inspiration?

I never expected to be an inspiration for others. Ever since I recieved my new heart I have been able to do things I love to do most. I see this as a second chance which I grab with both hands. Life is beuatiful if you make the best of it.

Why are Triathlons so inspiring? What makes this sport so special around the world?

Triathlon challenges you to get most out of your body and mind. It is a challeging sport for anyone at any level.

When did you start participating in triathlons? Where was your first competition?

in 2010, two and a half years after my heart transplant.

What motivates you in life?

My wife and my children.

What would you say to other people with similar ambitions?

Take your time, focus on what you want to achieve, prepare your body, and never stop enjoying what you are doing.

Who inspires you? Why?

My donor inspires me every day!

How did you deal with obstacles in your life?

I always stay possitive, focus on the my goals and never stop fighting.

What do you like most about Triathlons?

The challenge of preparing your body and mind to make it strong.

Mention major accomplishments in your life other than triathlons

Became a father of a beuatiful son and daughter.

Do you support or represent any Non-Profit Organizations? 

Yes. The Heart Foundation in Nwtherlands (Hartstichting) Please support us at www.hartstichting.nl