Raynaud’s Sufferer Escapes from Alcatraz!

One of our members, Geoff Chellis, sent an email with a story we thought would be inspiring for fellow Frosties, and he agreed to let us publish it.  Warning:  Just reading this story can give you the chills!

Geoff Chellis - Alcatraz SwimIn the spirit of Raynaud’s Awareness Month I thought I’d share a recent story and a donation to further your work.

I have been a sufferer of Raynaud’s for the past 10 years and tried everything to the point of buying a second home in Florida to get relief from the dreadful affliction. It started with pain in my fingers, then toes and legs, to now having a chill in my bones for most days from late September until early May.  I wear long underwear, double layer of socks, carry gloves in all my coat pockets and use electronic boots and hand warmers constantly.  But the whole time I had a bucket list challenge nagging at me and decided for once to thumb my nose at Raynaud’s … by doing an Escape from Alcatraz!

My brother and I came up with the crazy idea when we were in our early 20’s and he was living in San Francisco.  My brother passed away a few years later but I decided to fulfill the challenge at the age of 56 to honor his memory. I found a swimming group called Water World Swim that holds monthly swims in this bone chilling water year round.  While we get to wear wet suits, they will not allow the use of gloves or boots which, of course, are the areas that plague me the most.  I did a practice swim in May in 57 degree water, and it took nearly 20 minutes to get my hands to grip the steering wheel to drive away.  But I went ahead with the full swim on September 19th in 64 degree water for 2.1 miles from Alcatraz to St Francis beach in Chrissy Field.  We had to fight criss-crossing currents and rumors of sharks, but I was undaunted, and the adrenaline overrode any thought of what the Raynaud’s was doing to my system.  My hands and feet became stiff like paddles, so in a way I had an advantage!

I know that October is Raynaud’s Awareness Month so I thought I’d pass along my story and share a few photos of my “prison uniform” that my daughter made with white duct tape.  I definitely don’t recommend this swim for anyone with or without Raynaud’s, and this will be my last stunt in ice water!  I will also make a donation online to help your team to continue to raise awareness and pass along tips on ways to find relief.  You have helped me tremendously.

Geoff, thanks for sharing your experience.  We admire your determination and greatly appreciate your support!