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INCREDIBLE: Watford resident becomes first person with spinal cord injury to swim the channel

 Published on: 7th August 2022   |   By: News Bulletin   |   Category: Uncategorized

Watford resident Paula Craig MBE has successfully become the first person with a complete spinal cord injury to swim the English Channel without a wetsuit as part of a relay team

Paula Craig MBE took on the challenge with the Aspire Mutts relay Channel team, a team of six swimmers who set off from Dover at 2.48am on Thursday, August 4, each swimming one hour in rotation until they arrived in France.  The team swam for 14 hours and 3 minutes, with Paula taking on two hour-long swims.  The other members of the team were Katy Bradfield, Emma White, Simon Elwell, Katy Bradfield, Paul Parrish and Marc Gledhill, with Tessa McLean as the boat leader.  

Paula took on the swim to mark the 21st anniversary since she was injured.  She says, “I’m exhausted but relieved and excited that we made it to France. The rest of the team were incredible, supporting me all the way and helping me get back onto the boat after my swims. 

“I support Aspire whenever I can because the charity is the reason I am where I am today, in terms of both my physical and mental wellbeing. Their support since I was paralysed by a spinal cord injury has included providing me with accessible accommodation after my discharge from hospital which enabled me to return to work within a year of my accident. Their fully inclusive facilities at the Aspire Leisure Centre enabled me to return to sport and, in turn, to start living life to the full again.”  

Paul Parrish, Aspire’s director of fundraising & marketing and one of the team says, “Paula was our sixth swimmer and was quite happy to roll off the back of the boat into the murky water.  She has a T12 full spinal break so her legs should drag in the water, but she somehow manages to use her core strength to prevent this and is able to swim long distances without them sinking. 

“That is remarkable, but it’s her bravery that always stands out; she is unable to tread water or get out of the Channel quickly.  She has to rely on her team, and we had devised a system to get her safely back on the boat using a spinal board.  It wasn’t easy for her, but the system worked, and we could carry out slick swimmer change overs.”  

Brian Carlin, Aspire’s CEO says, “Paula Craig MBE has been a fantastic ambassador for Aspire for many years, speaking in schools and at our Sports Quiz Dinners and fundraising by taking on challenges such as the London Marathon and swimming the Solent.  We are extremely grateful for everything she has done to support Aspire over the past 20 years and the £23,000 she has raised through her Relay Channel Swim will enable us to support other people who have been paralysed by Spinal Cord Injury.”  

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