Local 72-year-old to Swim Strait of Gibraltar for a Cause – And You Can Help

Strait of Gibraltar Swim

The following article was printed in the Lynden Tribune on Wednesday, August 15th about Lynden resident Johannes Lisiecki, and was provided to me by Mr. Lisiecki.  In preparing for the swim across the Strait of Gilbraltar to raise awareness about the dangers of congenital heart defects, Johannes is going to do some practice by swimming from Birch Bay State Park to Birch Bay Village, and that is how you can help by being an escort by boat as he makes his local swim.  Our own Mike Kent has volunteered his boat, but Johannes needs someone in Birch Bay to run the boat.  Johannes will coordinate with the person, and he is thinking someone who is retired would be ideal as he will need to coordinate the tides, weather and timing with that person.  If you are available, you can contact Johannes directly at 360.778.1447 or via email – johmali@yahoo.com. He also has a website that describes his Gibraltar swim.  It is http://heartchallengeswim.org/

And now the Lynden Tribune article:

Local 72-year-old to swim Strait of Gilbraltar for a cause close to his heart

“Tim Newcomb, Wed, August 15, 2012 

  LYNDEN Johannes Lisiecki wanted some legitimacy behind him as he works to raise awareness about the dangers of congenital heart defects. So the 72-year-old heart surgery survivor plans to swim the Strait of Gibraltar in October.

He figures that ought to get some attention. He’s right. 

The German native and Lynden resident since 2006 said his own near-death experience with a congenital heart defect in 2007 has led him on this path, using swimming as a tool to help spread the word about the importance of early screening for heart issues that actually appear in 1 of every 100 children.

Knowing he needed a little wow factor behind his message, he figured the 12-mile swim from Spain to Morocco would turn a few heads.

Lisiecki has teamed up with Dr. Andrew Coletti of Northwest Cascade Cardiology and a list of other sponsors to fund the swim.

But it took a horrific turn in Lisiecki’s life to bring him to the point of a swim that will take him five to seven hours to complete.

The exact opposite of a heart-disease candidate, Lisiecki, a self-proclaimed “adventreneur,” has always exercised plenty, eaten healthy and avoided drinking or smoking. But on Dec. 7, 2007, he started having trouble breathing and went by ambulance to the hospital emergency room in Bellingham where Coletti discovered a heart valve failure that almost killed him.

While doctors were able to fix the valve, Lisiecki needed a defibrillator implanted to keep his heart in proper rhythm.

And the cause of it all? A congenital defect that could have been potentially caught years decades, actually earlier.

“An awareness should be created about the birth defect problem,he said. “We should have kids checked with an X-ray or electrocardiogram.”

He said that most heart problems are found either by accident or only after a tragic circumstance.

After a few months of recovery, Lisiecki was back exercising, this time in the pool at Homestead.

By January 2009 he was joking with fitness manager Scott Duffey about how far he could swim and boasted that he could make it five miles by his birthday in April. And he did, just a year after receiving the defibrillator.

The stir that Lisiecki caused by his five-mile swim made him “wonder what swimming the Strait of Gibraltar would look like as a way to gain some attention for his cause.

With Coletti on board as both a sponsor and his doctor, Lisiecki started planning. A setback (his daughter in Germany suffered a brain aneurism that cancelled the swim once) pushed him into the October 2012 guided trip. He will be in Spain for a week, ready to swim on a day where the currents and weather both cooperate.

To prepare, Lisiecki swims every other day at the YMCA and has pounded out 650 miles in the water since his heart surgery. He recorded 1,206 laps, over 34 miles, in July alone. As the outdoor water temperature rises, he will shift his training to Lake Padden more frequently.

Swimming the strait in October, Lisiecki feels, will give him “credibility” to use his newly formed Heart Challenge Swim Association nonprofit to reach the general public and teach at schools, among other places.

“I think that is what has me excited about it,he said. “It will give me the recognition I need to teach it, because I have done it.”

Lisiecki, who has also taught seminars for years on being a person who pursues dreams instead of putting them off, said that heart screenings are actually the same idea, as tragic events could have been prevented with “just a proper check.”

He said we hear too many times about young athletes dying on the field of play because of birth defects. His was a similar circumstance, as he first felt something wrong two weeks before his emergency room visit after his heart rate skyrocketed while on an elliptical workout machine. Earlier checks could potentially have prevented his ordeal and certainly could have saved the lives of others with birth defects, he said.

“I think I have quite the story to tell, he said. And he will only add to it in October.

Email Tim Newcomb at tim@lyndentribune.com. Lynden Tribune”

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1 Response to Local 72-year-old to Swim Strait of Gibraltar for a Cause – And You Can Help

  1. John Gargett says:

    Reblogged this on Tide Catcher In Birch Bay Blog.

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