One of our goals for Mitchell has been to find him an outdoor activity that he can enjoy while still being safe. Since the Kelston J was gifted to us in 2015 we have held out hope to take him out sailing as he has such a love of movement and wind. Unfortunately, between the logistics of weather, equipment, health and the ability to get on and off the boat easily, we have not made that happen. The closest we had got was putting him on the boat while it was moored at the marina before we repainted her. Here is a layout I did of him playing captain, back in 2015.
There have been so many obstacles to overcome with his complex needs. For the 13 years he lived with a tracheostomy he was unable to go to the beach, as sand is extremely dangerous should it go down his trachea. Plus, he was unable to go swimming with his head in/under the water, as quite simply this would drown his lungs. So, activities at the beach or on the water could be life threatening, unless handled with extreme caution. There have been times we went to the beach anyway, plus he would paddle his feet in the pool, but it has only been the last 2 years since the trache tube was removed and his stoma closed that we have been able to consider water activities.
One thing we have always known for certain, was that he loves water and wind. Just before his trache stoma healed completely, we took a ferry to Devonport for the day and his face below shows how much he enjoyed that.
Just in time for his 14th birthday, the surgeons stitched up his stoma and he was able to put his face and head under the water for the first time. Although he was tentative going under the water, it was amazing to see him be able to experience something we take for granted.
Then about a year ago, I came across a facebook page for an organisation called Sailability. It was based in Auckland and offered lessons and adapted yachts for use by disabled persons. It felt a little out of reach at that stage, as I imagined that Mitchell would need to be a bit more water savvy. So we asked for Mitchell to have some time in the pool at school, which he did – until his ears got infected, requiring surgical removal of the sinus tracts. It felt like he would never be able to get in or on the water.
But today, we did it. We booked for a trial run, and his health was good enough, and he got to go out on the water!!
When we arrived at the Westhaven Marina today, I didn’t really expect Mitchell would go straight out on the water. But he did. Rob, the volunteer there today, was so relaxed and friendly, that Mitchell was happy to get on board. There wasn’t much wind, so not a lot of speed, but what a great introduction. Now, they are shut for Christmas – but we can go again mid-January.
What a great day. Now, I just need to scrapbook that moment.