By Gary Paul Bryant
When Johannes Lisiecki waded into the cold waters of Semiahmoo Bay on August 22, no one was really sure what the outcome would be. Slapped by wakes of passing boats, tossed by rolling waves and fighting strong channel currents, Lisiecki swam through international waters to raise awareness of congenital heart disease (CHD).
Lisiecki is himself a 75-year-old CHD survivor, and had surgery for the condition seven years ago. On August 22 Lisiecki swam the 1.5-mile crossing from Semiahmoo Spit to White Rock in less than 90 minutes. He spent the next hour swimming parallel to shore, a quarter mile off the Canadian coast until a volunteer Semiahmoo Marina chase boat retrieved him a few hundred feet from White Rock’s pier.
“I got slapped a couple of times pretty good,” Lisiecki said, referring to strong wakes left by high-speed boaters. Asked if the water was cold, he replied, “No, not
Semiahmoo Marina jumped at the chance to offer Lisiecki
“This is a great cause and a very impressive man,” said Jimmy Johnson, president of the Semiahmoo Marina Condo
The marina provided two chase boats piloted by Stan Bianchi and Jeff Mahe, as well as on-board volunteer first aid staff.
Lisiecki is the founder of the Heart Challenge Swim Association, which is dedicated to pediatric congenital heart defects research and awareness. According to the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, at least 18 congenital heart defects affect children.
Problems with his own heart eventually found Lisiecki on the operating table of Bellingham’s Dr. Andrew Coletti, who performed corrective surgery and later implanted a defibrillator to insure a steady pulse.
Lisiecki soon put the new defibrillator to the test. As part of his rehabilitation, he began a swimming regimen and within a few months he was swimming in the pool several hours each day. The experience inspired him to launch the Heart Challenge Swim Association.
Lisiecki is on a mission to raise funds and awareness for CHD through long distance swimming. The money raised is donated directly to Seattle Children’s Hospital and Research Association.
Last month, Lisiecki swam the 2-mile stretch across Birch Bay. This time, it was the Semiahmoo Bay crossing, the first known Semiahmoo to White Rock swim. He hopes it will be an inspiration for others to join him in making it an annual fundraising event.
Lisiecki is also a public speaker and author. His books, “Gibraltar, the Story of My Heart,” “Following a Dream” and “The Johmalites” are all available at Amazon.com