Swimmers relish second chance together

Tim EdmundsAlbany Advertiser
Swimmers Marcelle Cannon and Beth Hearle.
Camera IconSwimmers Marcelle Cannon and Beth Hearle. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

Just the thought of Marcelle Cannon getting back in the water made her family nervous.

Less than two months after suffering a cardiac arrest 150m from the finish line of the Rottnest Channel Swim, the Albany mother is already well and truly on the comeback trail.

While it is unlikely she will tackle the 20km race again, the experienced swimmer no longer feels the effects of her near-death experience in February.

Mrs Cannon, survived after collapsing on the brink of finishing the gruelling event for the seventh time.

The days she spent fighting for her life in a Perth hospital bed after being pulled from the water were far from her mind yesterday morning as she trained alongside long-time swimming buddy Ms Hearle. The pair reunited for an ocean swim last weekend for the first time since the Rottnest health scare.

They continue to swim together regularly, as they have for the past 10 years, picking up where they left off.

Teaming up as a duo for the first time at the channel swim, Ms Hearle said the feeling of swimming alongside her friend again would be something she would cherish forever after watching her being resuscitated at the finish line.

“It was just awesome, I didn’t think that was ever going to happen again,” she said.

“I knew we were swimming in the pool together but to swim in the ocean together, it’s just our happy place.”

Mrs Cannon managed to raise her hand just before she sank below the surface near Rottnest Island, attracting the attention of surf lifesavers on a paddleboard who carried her to a boat and started CPR within 30 seconds.

They continued on the shore for 20 minutes until paramedics arrived.

She was placed in an induced coma before waking four days later.

Four weeks after almost dying near the finish line, Mrs Cannon said her first ocean swim at Middleton Beach after being medically cleared had led to some doubt and anxiety after the overriding emotion of excitement of re-entering the water.

“I just calmed my breathing down and focused on what I love about being in the ocean and then I was fine,” she said

“I was so glad I don’t have to give up swimming.

“I don’t remember anything from it, so I was wondering if it would trigger any memories.

“First couple of times I took it easier but now I don’t feel as much pain and starting to get my fitness back. I just feel really happy.

The 47-year-old mother of two believes her competitive streak will eventually see her return to long-distance swimming events.

“My family, they have memories that would come back to them seeing me in the ICU and being resuscitated,” she said.

“It’s easy for me to ignore that as I don’t have those memories but I work in mental health so I understand trauma and I don’t think it’s very fair just for a swim.

“I think anything that is under an hour, like a 5km swim or the harbour swim, eventually I think will be fine but I don’t think anything over that time frame, and I’m a bit competitive so apparently the more you push yourself the more you can put yourself at risk.

“I’m not very good at not pushing myself.”

Marcelle Cannon at the pool on Wednesday.
Camera IconMarcelle Cannon at the pool on Wednesday. Credit: Albany Advertiser, Laurie Benson

Mrs Cannon said she was “incredibly grateful” to the first responders who saved her life.

“When I got back to Albany I went to my son’s ball and sent them a photo of that telling them ‘this is what you did’ and I’ve been able to attend these milestones with my family,” she said.

“That’s my message, that because of them I am still able to be there for those amazing milestones and what they do is so important.”

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