When Johannes Lisiecki waded into the cold waters of Semiahmoo Bay on Saturday, no one was really sure what the outcome would be. Slapped by wakes of passing boats, tossed by rolling waves and sucked by strong channel currents, Johannes Lisiecki swam through international waters to raise awareness of congenital heartdisease (CHD).
After all, Lisiecki is himself, a 75 year-old CHD survivor, had faced his own mortality seven years ago. But on August 22 and in less than three hours, Lisiecki swam the 2.5 mile crossing, spending the last hour swimming parallel to the Canadian shore. where he was retrieved by a volunteer Semiahmoo Marina chase boat, a few hundred feet from White Rock’s pier.
“I got slapped a couple of times pretty good.” He says, referring to strong wakes left by high speed boaters. Asked if the water was cold, he replied, “No, not so bad.”
Semiahmoo Marina jumped at the chance to offer support to Mr. Lisiecki. “This is a great cause and a very impressive man,” said Jimmy Johnson, President of the Semiahmoo Marina Condo Association.
The marina, located on Semiahmoo spit adjacent to Semiahmoo Inn, provided two chase boats piloted by Stan Bianchi and Jeff Mahe, as well as on-board volunteer first aid staff.
Mr. Lisiecki is the founder of the Heart Challenge Swim Association, dedicated to pediatric congenital heart defects research and awareness. According to the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, there are more than 18 congenital heart defects that affect children. Problems with his own heart eventually found him on the operating table of Bellingham’s Dr. James Douglas who performed corrective surgery and later Dr. John MacGregor implanted a defibrillator to insure a steady pulse of which he soon took advantage.
As part of rehabilitation, Lisiecki began a swimming regimen and within a few months he was swimming in the pool several hours each week. This inspired him to launch his own non-profit organization to raise awareness of CHD called the Heart Challenge Swim Association.
Lisieski on a mission to raise funding and awareness for CHD by doing long distance swims. The money raised is donated directly to Seattle Children’s Hospital and Research Association. Last month, Lisiecki swam the entire two mile stretch across Birch Bay. This time, it was the Semiahmoo Bay crossing, the first known Semiahmoo to White Rock swim, it is intended to be an inspiration for others to join him in making it an annual fund-raising event.