He might be a cold water swimmer but Constantia resident Mike Beaumont, 66, has a warm heart.
On Friday July 15 he officially handed over a paediatric cardiac monitor at Victoria Hospital after raising funds to purchase it from swimming from Robben Island to Blouberg, making him the oldest first-timer to achieve this feat (“Record swim for charity”, Bulletin, December 10, 2015”).
The tiny resuscitation room of the paediatric ward was packed with Mike’s family, friends, other crazy cold water swimmers and staff from Victoria Hospital’s paediatric ward.
Welcoming everyone, hospital manager Dr Melvin Moodley congratulated Mike on his accomplishment and on doing it in record time. “There are lessons to be learned from this, firstly by setting a goal and focusing on it. Then by overcoming the obstacles – in this case the weather, water temperature and the possibility of sharks. And finally the possibility of failure and being prepared for it,” said Dr Moodley. “Now many lives will be saved.”
Mike tackled the swim in the company of two friends to raise money via pledges for the purchase of a much-needed cardiac monitor.
Sitting on a bed in the resuscitation room, Mike told the story of what had motivated him to take on this challenge. Tony Sellmeyer had given him a book that he had written about cold water swimming in Cape Town.
“The book just sat there on my desk. I didn’t read it but I never got it out of my mind. And then eventually I decided to give it a try and asked Tony to go to Clifton with me,” said Mike.
It went terribly and he got sick but it did not put him off and he gave it another bash, this time for a cold water acclimatisation session, spending half an hour immersed in Clifton’s icy water. “Then into the car with the heater on full blast before driving somewhere for hot chocolate,” he said.
Training followed, swimming at Newlands pool and at Silvermine dam. All this led to his first long distance swim on December 16 from Clifton beach to the whale-shaped Barker Rock and back, about 2km, in 14-degree water.
Mike had overcame his adversities and enjoyed swimming in the sea and in cold water. There was no going back. Well actually there was.
It was when Alan Ramsay, an old friend of Mike’s, heard that he was planning to swim from Robben Island to Blouberg, he suggested that he does the swim for a good cause. “He’s been very involved with Victoria Hospital for a long time and works with the board of Victoria Hospital to help raise funds. We decided to have a specific goal and asked what they needed and they said a paediatric cardiac monitor.”
Initially the cost was R80 000 but due to the foreign exchange it went up to R120 000. Through the Bulletin article a generous donor made up the difference.
Meanwhile, the team were waiting for the right conditions of blue sky and a north-westerly wind which apparently makes the water warmer, still a freezing cold 14ºC as opposed to his normal 11ºC.
In total it took nine months to collect the funds, some coming from all over the world. “I called it my gestation period,” laughed Mike. Dr Gill Schermbrucker said the cardiac monitor will not only save lives, but make the process of saving lives much easier.
Previously paediatric ward staff had to wheel in another monitor from across the ward to resuscitate a child. “The golden five minutes, saving precious seconds, it’s a lean mean machine,” said a grinning Dr Schermbrucker.
Later she told the Bulletin that she is impressed with Mike for raising the funds in such a healthy way, something the hospital staff passionately advocate.
Mike completed the 7.4km swim in 2hours 45 minutes, 15 minutes quicker than the time he was hoping for.
Dr Moodley jokingly asked when Mike would be doing his next swim, saying the hospital has a long needs list.
If you would like to make a donation to Victoria Hospital, you can call Dr Melvin Moodley on 072 585 8081 or you can visit Friends of the Victoria Hospital website at www.friendsof victoriahospital.org