Frances is swimming because her mum was accidentally paralysed

I took on this challenge for my Mum. Her life was cut short by being accidentally paralysed after being very active and independent for 83 years. She had severe osteoporosis and one morning was unable to get out of the bathtub and sat there for 5 hours. Sitting for that long resulted in a spinal fracture. She was misdiagnosed when she got to the hospital with a stable fracture when, in reality, it was unstable. The treatment for a stable fracture is movement but the treatment for an unstable fracture is not. The movement caused her spinal cord to be damaged, resulting in paralysis. It was difficult to watch her decline and it was really hard for her to rely on others for her daily living needs and to be confined to bed 24/7. But she did it with courage and humour and definitely rose to the challenge.

I’m a healthcare professional myself and the results of the investigation have revealed some major anomalies in the care of people with potential spinal injuries. Protocol has now been updated at the hospital, thankfully, due to my sister and I holding the medical team accountable.

Frances 1

I hadn't been swimming for about 8 years until July this year when I started another charity swim challenge. Starting again after such a long time I found that my stroke was clunky, I lacked confidence in the water and my breathing and stamina needed some serious work. I have exercised induced asthma which means that sometimes my lungs feel they can't get enough air into them, kind of like my lungs are wrapped in cling film and can't expand. Swimming helps me improve my lung capacity.

Swimming 4 miles a week after not swimming for 8 years was definitely a challenge. As a dietitian, I was aware of how my nutrition impacted my energy and recovery after each swim, so I tweaked my nutrition to be able to perform at my best. It has given me greater insight to help my sports nutrition clients achieve their goals. I completed the swim in 5 weeks because I felt really committed to the cause and wanted to focus on what the swim personally meant to me. I kept on swimming until I started travelling in December and I swam 38 miles in total!

I swam the 22 miles using just my arms, not my legs; firstly, to experience what it would be like to not be able to use my legs (one of the challenges that many people with spinal injuries have to live with) and secondly, as a way to get stronger because my upper body strength needed some work.

I definitely got better at swimming during the challenge. If we want to get better at anything, the more we practice, the better we get. I did watch some stroke improvement videos too, which helped with my technique and upper body strength. So the experience helped me grow my knowledge, my technique, and stamina.

Frances 2

For me, swimming is part of honing my body to the best it can be so that I can show up as my best self in every area of my life. Being in the pool is where I can be alone to focus on my physical and mental health. I use Swimp3 headphones in the water to help with cadence and I switched up my music a couple of times to stay motivated and energized. I feel that I achieve mental clarity, and I'm being kind to myself when I take time to swim.

I would tell others not to be afraid of embracing a challenge like this; you will get a sense of accomplishment, the opportunity to highlight a need, improved mental and physical health, and a sense of purpose.

Fundraising was really hard during the pandemic because so many people are struggling financially. I posted regularly on social media, giving my updates and I spoke to friends and family about it. I plan to record a short video and post that on social media as well.

For me, raising funds for charities and worthy causes is not just about the money: it's about truly seeing the person who has been impacted by a spinal cord injury; it's about looking outward from ourselves and our challenges to have empathy and compassion for others, and it's about realizing that in a heartbeat that could be me.

Thank you for creating this event so that we get to remember that other people's struggles are often way harder than our own. For me, looking outwards at other people’s challenges in life helps me refocus, realign, and get clarity of who I want to show up in the world as and that, regardless of my own challenges, life is pretty sweet!

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