With the addition of the latex collar to Cheryl's now-drysuit, she decided that she wanted to try a wet exit. On Wednesday night she was ready to give it a whir so we headed off the pond. As I stood next to her. she did her first exit sans spray skirt. She was over and out in a matter of seconds with no trauma, no fear. I was happy because the Seayak has quite a small keyhole cockpit that I found a little troublesome to exit. We did a couple more without the skirt then moved onto ones with the skirt. Again, no problems!! I told her to try and hold herself in the upside position for a few seconds - which she did, but as we all know, the actual time underwater is nowhere near as long as we think it is!! I told her to stay under for 5 seconds. She went over and BAMM she was up again asking "That was 5 seconds, wasn't it???"
On the final exit, I was in my boat and she successfully clambered up between our boats and back into the cockpit. All with no major incident!!
Fast forward to tonight (Thursday)
Tonight we went to our regular Thursday night practice in St. Philips. Most were engaging in rescues and in-water activities while Cheryl seemed content to stay in her boat. She expressed a bit of shyness about getting out the boat and not being able to get back in. I did not push her. At the end of the night, she said that she wanted to do a wet exit - but closer to shore, Dean and I accompanied her. Like a real trooper Cheryl donned a balaclava and nose plug and just capsized. She exited with no issues - again, no fear, no trauma, no gasping. Actually she was smiling!! She and I then proceeded to do a standard rescue. She hung off my bow while I emptied her boat. Then she did a very clean re-entry. Very impressive for only her second attempt at such a rescue!!
Some people may ask why I'm making such a big deal of all this. Well, Cheryl was diagnosed with MS back in 1995 and has been on a daily self-injection of drugs for close to 10 years now. Since her diagnosis, Cheryl has been afraid to "push" herself or was unwilling to try things that she thought she would not be physically able to do. Kayaking was one of those things she thought she could not/would not be able to do. The fact that she's managed to paddle for hours on end (11 kms being the most yet) and has been able to wet exit AND complete a successful re-entry even while being tired, speaks volumes about what she really can do - especially if she enjoys it, if she really wants to do it and if she gets the proper support!!
I, for one, am behind her all the way!!