Hilton Swanson – a stroke survivor with very little mobility on the left side of his body – completed a gruelling challenge over the weekend in honour of World Stroke Day!
Western Cape, South Africa (20 October 2020) – If these pictures of over 30 kids from Clifton lifesaving club paddling out to give stroke survivor Hilton Swanson a hero’s welcome into the bay don’t give you goosebumps, nothing will.
The 59-year-old was once one of Cape Town’s finest lifesavers, with a number of Western Cape and South African titles to his name. But after suffering a stroke and losing the use of one side of his body’s he has struggled to gain the confidence to get back in the water.
All that changed this weekend when Swanson put his fears aside and sailed a children’s “Optimist Dinghy” from Camps Bay to Clifton. Nevermind that the 8-foot boat is not designed for adults, or to sail in the open sea, or that conditions were such that even accomplished sailors would have struggled, Swanson proved that by putting mind over matter, anything is possible.
Swanson decided to take up the challenge in honour of World Stroke Day.
World Stroke Day is observed on October 29 to underscore the serious nature and high rates of stroke, raise awareness of the prevention and treatment of the condition, and ensure better care and support for survivors. On this day, organizations around the world have facilitated events emphasizing education, testing, and initiatives to improve the damaging effects of stroke worldwide.
“That was very tough for me, as I have little mobility on the left side of my body. I had to persevere and overcome the rough water and cramped space to ensure I finished my challenge”, he said.
With difficult sea conditions and very little wind, the roughly two-and-a-half-kilometre journey took over two hours. But Swanson’s bravery earned him a moving show of support from his home club at the end. His effort was part of the Little Optimist Global Challenge organised by fellow lifesaver and big wave surfer Greg Bertish.
Bertish says, “It was Hilton’s pure fighting spirit and optimism in tough conditions that saw him complete the challenge. So inspirational.”
Swanson managed to raise almost R15,000 for the Clifton Surf Bursary fund and the Little Optimist Trust.