Sunday, October 23, 2011

We will miss you sweet little Katelyn

Last night heaven got another angel, a very special angel named Katelyn.  When I met Katelyn this past spring I was not prepared for just how much this small child would impact my life, in fact, it was my only hope to impact her life.  Katelyn, in just six years, probably touched and inspired more people than most could do in 80 years.  Upon hearing the news last night, I cried myself to sleep.  I cried because life's not fair.  I cried because I know how much Katelyn will be missed by everyone who knew her.  She fought a hard battle for two years, all the while wearing a contagiously beautiful smile on her sweet little face.

When I woke up this morning, I went and swam. It is the first time I have swam since my Chelan swim for Katelyn.  It was laughable how long one mile seemed given the fact that my last swim was 50 times that much, but I needed to swim today, as swimming usually helps me sort things out in my head.  As I was swimming, I couldn't help but think what an extraordinary person Katelyn was, not just extraordinary for a child, but even in comparison to adults.  I feel lucky to have been able to know her and her wonderful family.  I think we can all learn a few things from Katelyn and how she lived her life.

1) Smile every opportunity you have.  I remember the slide show that was playing at KK's Kupcake fundraiser this spring.  I specifically recall how every single photo of her had her smiling.  It didn't matter if it was a hospital photo or not, she had a million dollar grin.  And every time I saw her in person, she was one of the happiest kids I have ever met.   As I told many people after I met Katelyn, you'd never know she had cancer if it wasn't told to you, she didn't behave like a sick kid; she was just an amazing little bundle of positive energy. 

2) Live every minute to the fullest.  I cannot imagine the pain that Katelyn endured during the course of her treatment and her long battle with her disease, but she still was a happy little girl.  Although I was not there during any of Katelyn's hospital stays, I followed Grandma Pat's caringbridge posts closely and it seemed that whenever she was able, Katelyn was on the move and having fun.  She lit up every situation I saw her in.  During the swim, Katelyn had come out to the support boat with Jaime right after a bit of a breakdown I had, and the moment she arrived the energy changed.  She had everyone on the boat laughing and smiling.  She correctly identified and called my brother-in-law, who was driving the boat, "trouble," she turned the boat into a makeshift beauty parlor and did my sister's hair and as I swam I watched her sitting with her little face peering over the side of the boat smiling at me as she watched me swim.  Katelyn didn't just mope around and feel sorry for herself, which is something many adults going through far less significant hardships tend to do. No not Katelyn, she really lived her life.

3) Life is precious and fragile.  I think we all from time to time tend to take life for granted.  We have many things that fill our days with worry, and most of those things really don't matter.  The truth is no one has any guarantees.  None of us know when our last day will come.  So let Katelyn remind you.  Don't sweat the small stuff.  Let the people you care about know how important they are to you.  Smile.  Be happy and grateful for the time that you do have.

Katelyn, you were such an amazing girl; I will never forget you.  I loved getting to know you and your family.  You are the toughest girl I've ever known and you will always be such an inspiration to me.  Scope out Heaven for the biggest lake you can find and one day we can swim it together!


Monday, September 26, 2011

Updates on Fundraising totals and Katelyn

Hey friends!  I've got two things that I am very happy to tell you all about!  First off my post-swim recovery is on track.  As of two weeks ago all of my kidney function tests were back to normal and I am back at work full time.  After speaking with a sports doctor, it appears the mistake I made during the swim was exceeding the max recomended does of Advil in a day (Advil is broken down by the kidneys) and "next time" I need to alternate Advil with Tylenol (broken down by the liver).  Lessons learned right?  I haven't gotten back in the pool yet, but I'm giving that another week I think.

Second, I am very happy to report that so far the fundraising totals are at $8,000 with donations still coming in!  I'm still hoping to raise more in donations for Katelyn, but we are making great progress!  Thanks to everyone who has donated!  I'd also like to thank everyone who has sent letters and shared their own stories with me.  I will respond to each and every letter, but it just may take me a little while!

I do have one piece of bad news to tell you all though.  Last week Katelyn's family was told that she has relapsed for a second time.  I'm not sure what this means in terms of her treatment, except that the treatment she has been recieving isn't working.  I know that many of you are thinking about and praying for Katelyn and her family already-please continue to do so.  For more detailed updates on Katelyn and her treatment, here is a link to her caringbridge site:

Here's a picture from the swim-Katelyn on the support boat sporting a princess crown!  I just love her little toothless smile!  Again, please keep KK in your thoughts!


Friday, September 9, 2011

All the details...and then some!

Okay, I’m ready to tell the story of my swim!  But before I do, I’d like to explain why it took me so long to feel “up to it.”  My recovery from this swim took longer than my recovery from Flathead Lake last year.  This appears to have been mostly due to a kidney issue.  Beginning Sunday (two days after my swim finish) I was having pretty bad stomach/lower back pain.  Once back to Kalispell on Tuesday my pain had escalated to the point that I took a trip to the ER and was diagnosed with acute renal failure due to dehydration.  Apparently I got dehydrated in the several days following the swim which negatively affected my kidneys.  So I have been home sick from work all week, stuck on the couch, watching Grey’s Anatomy and drinking as much liquid as possible.  I am feeling much better this afternoon.  I had my kidney function retested this morning, but have not been called with the results yet, but based on how I am feeling right now, I am guessing I’m on the road to recovery!

This will be a long post, because it was a long swim! 

On Wednesday the 31st my boat crew and I left Jetski’s Ahoy at 9:00 am towards Stehekin.  My initial crew was Cassie(my friend-a YMCA swimmer), Krissy (my sister), Hannah (my niece) and Brian (KK’s dad).  We had anticipated a 3 hour drive to the top of the lake, but we hit quite a bit of rough weather which not only slowed us down, but used more gas than we had anticipated.  We were about 10 miles from Stehekin when our pontoon boat ran out of gas and we had to wait for the Forest Service to come and rescue us!  We finally got up to Stehekin at about 3:30.   I was ansty and unhappy that we were so far off schedule.  I am still working on being better able to handle unexpected issues that arise in situations like these. 

By the time I got started it was 4:00 pm (4 hours behind schedule).  Immediately upon getting in the water I knew it was MUCH colder than I had been told.  I was expecting between 60 and 65 degree water, upon entry into the frigid waves of Lake Chelan I am convinced it was no warmer than 55 degrees.  I was worried, when 2 hours in, I was still feeling cold.  Although my training had included swims in cold lakes like Glacier National Park’s Lake McDonald, I was unprepared for the cold of Lake Chelan.  Maybe it was the cooler air temperature, or the wind but I was just plain cold (and that feeling didn’t go away the entire swim).

Somewhere between 6 and 7 pm the night shift was transferred out (being that we were 4 hours behind, this meant that my dad, who was driving the transfer boat, had to travel much further up the lake than we had planned).  The night shift was Katie (my co-worker), Amanda (my sister) and Elliot (my cousin).  Darkness came very quickly after that and I had a lot of anxiety about swimming in the dark with the waves I had been experiencing.  Around 8 pm I decided that I needed more warmth-I was having trouble keeping my fingers together on my arm pulls because my hands were so cold.  I put on my neoprene shirt over my wetsuit (and that stayed on for the rest of the swim).  It was very difficult to put this tight, thick shirt on while in the water, but it wasn’t impossible.

Feeling much warmer, the next issue I tackled was an increasing sense of my stomach feeling “sloshy.”  I’ve never gotten nauseas while swimming and I had tried all of my nutritional choices in training.  So I’m not sure if it was the rough 6 hour boat ride up to Stehekin, my anxiety over the late start, or the amount I’d been pushed around by the waves thus far…or maybe it was a combination of all three.  But the next thing I knew I was vomiting, 3 times.  I knew that stomach issues could be the end of an effort like this but as soon as I threw up, I immediately felt a million times better!  So with the help of my crew we cut down my nutrition intake for a few hours until my stomach was back on track and that was the last issue I had with nausea.

Once I calmed down I was able to take in some of the beauty of the night.  The part of the lake that we were at that time did not have houses on the shore.  There were no lights, except the lights from our boat, and because of that, the stars were shinning brighter than I had ever seen before.  There were still a good amount of waves, but they were all moving with me and although I had the occasional mouth full of water from an unseen wave taking me over-I had felt like I was getting better at reading the lake.

Near 3 or 4 in the morning my Dad finally returned to the Pontoon boat with the speedboat (he had left us at 7 and we had called shore and found out he had left Manson at 9 for the return trip to the pontoon boat).  We were all worried about how long it took him to return, but he had a rough drive to us with the waves.  I hit those same rougher waves right before sunlight and I was screaming at the lake.  I still can’t believe how hard the first 14 hours of the swim were and I still can’t believe I made it through that period of the swim.

Once the sun came up I was in MUCH better spirits.  I knew I had a long day ahead of me, but I was holding a great pace (mostly due to the waves at my back).  I was able to joke with my boat crew on breaks.  It was somewhere around 8 or 9 in the morning when the night crew was replaced by the second day crew.  This crew consisted of Krissy, Hannah and Cassie again, but also Jason (my brother in law) and Robin (a new friend who volunteered to help after reading one of the newspaper articles on the swim).

A few interesting things in regards to my pace around this point- 1) at the halfway point I was on track to be done within 28 hours (as predicted), 2) at the 30 mile mark-the distance of Flathead Lake, I was 2 hours faster than my Flathead Lake time.

Most of the day we had wonderful conditions and by midday we had even lost the wind at my back and the lake was flat as glass.  During this time period we got closer to where the water was supposed to get warmer, and don’t get me wrong, there were occasional drifts of warm water, but it never, ever felt like it got warmer to me.  I was freezing, the whole time.   Mid afternoon was when my pals began to hop in and swim with me.  Cassie and Robin were first.  Then my niece Hannah (who is 12) got in and swam with me for 2 hours! And she was able to keep up without fins!  She’s gonna be a superstar swimmer! : )  These little fishie helpers were SO great at lifting my spirits.

The other thing that greatly lifted my spirits was that my dad transferred out Katelyn and Jaime!  They stayed on the boat for a while.  KK was making everyone on the boat laugh.  She was doing my sister’s hair, trying on swim caps and waving at me while I swam.  It was wonderful to have her there.

Even with all these wonderful supporters, my mood soon went down and fast.  The weather turned in what felt like an instant.  The wind and waves were hitting us head on and I was SO tired.  This led to my first big crying breakdown.  I was trying so hard, but was making very little forward progress.  It took hours to get around one of the final bends in the lake.  For a swim that was so on track hours earlier, this change in the weather changed everything and pushed my swim into a second night battling the cold, the waves and severe exhaustion.

There were some transfers of boat crew, the kids all went in before dark and I honestly didn’t know who all was on the boat once the darkness had come again.  Around midnight I was so severely cold I was worried that I was hypothermic or in shock.  I begged my crew for something warm to drink.  They were able to flag down another boat for some hot water, which they brought us a whole bucket of.  I would love to know who these people were to thank them, because I was able to have tomato soup, it was the best tasting tomato soup I have ever had.  All my liquids from that point were made with the hot water and it seemed to jumpstart my system a bit.

Another jumpstart came when my dad brought out one last crew member a little past midnight- Bob Ford.  Bob was the director of Sport Clubs when I was at Central Washington University.  He is still at CWU and coaches rugby.  He hopped in the water with me and swam in front of me, yelling encouragement at me for hours.  It was incredible and it kept me going.

But then, close to 3:30 am with about 4 miles to my desired ending point, I started seeing things.  I thought I could see the shore, well more specifically, I thought I could see trees and plants and people on shore.  I was hallucinating.  Everything was catching up to me.  The cold.  The exhaustion.  The 36 hours I had been in the water.  I began arguing with my boat crew and crying.  I wanted to be done so bad.  I told my crew that I didn’t believe I had four miles left because I could see the shore.  I described the plants and the trees I could see and I was told that those things were not really there.  That I was seeing things and that it was time to get on the boat.  I refused.  Even then, on the brink of complete and utter exhaustion, I offered a compromise in order to get my way.  I asked to be directed to a different finish spot, the closest course to shore.  I was a half mile out from the shore our current course was running parallel to, so we changed course and I swam straight to shore.

My crew called the people on shore and directed them to change locations (which was good as the park had closed and locked the gates).  The cars of my family and friends on shore began to line my impromptu finish spot.  Even as I swam towards shore, I was still seeing vivid hallucinations.  I was seeing that I was swimming under a bridge (there was no bridge) and there were elaborate stone wall carvings on each side of me (not there either, but puts a new meaning to “hitting the wall”).  Once I got myself up to the rocks of the shore (which was well within the Chelan City limits) at 3:51 am, I immediately told my supporters that I was seeing things and I should probably be checked out.  My cousin Sarah is a nurse and she checked my vitals-which were fine.  I was in the water for 36 hours and awake for 46 hours straight. 

I was then carted off to the Condo, I showered and fell asleep with a half of a hamburger still in my hand.  : )

I only slept for around 2 hours then I was up, in pain and searching for food and ice!  I had a rash of visitors that morning, including the Roker family.  My parents and I headed back to Ellensburg after stopping and visiting with Mountain View Lodge and Jetski’s Ahoy to thank them again for their sponsorship of the swim.   The excitement and activity of the day is likely what caused me to become dehydrated, which led to my kidney issues, but again, I am feeling much better now!

A big, enormous thank you to all of you who have supported me in this goal of mine.  Particularly the members of the von Jentzen, Davis, Ernst, Benjamin and Roker families.  I know you were all on the edge of your seats waiting for my brother Paul’s next update!  To my boat crew-this could not have been done without you.  To my sponsors, thank you for supporting this event.  To the people of Chelan, Manson and Stehekin-thank you for cheering me on during my swim- and yes, I will come back at some point in a few months and speak about my swim.  And thank you, thank you so much, to all of you who have donated money to help out little Katelyn.

KK and her mother returned to New York on Sunday for her next round of treatment.  On the first day of treatment this week KK was weighed and measured and she had grown 1 ½ inches and gained one pound.  Her mom texted this to me and told me that KK wanted me to know that she was growing up to be as strong as me.  That made me cry.  That sweet little girl is already probably 10 times stronger than me, but I love that she will look up to me in that way.  KK had a birthday this week and turned 6 years old!

I would still encourage each of you reading to share this story, both of the swim and of KK’s battle with as many people as you can.  Right now donations collected are right around $5,000-which is about ½ way to the goal I had made in terms of fundraising.  Please continue to help me in raising as much as possible for this family.

I take great pride in this accomplishment, but swimming Lake Chelan was definitely a humbling experience.  Flathead Lake was cake by comparison.  Lake Chelan threw everything possible at me, and I had to work for every inch I gained. I made it, but there was not one point, not until I actually touched the rock on shore that I knew I was going to finish that swim.  I learned a lot about myself during this swim, but I also learned a lot about how the support and encouragement of people can drive an individual to complete a task that most would describe as impossible.  And it has once again been reinforced that a tiny little girl can inspire me to do things that many people thought I was not capable of doing.    


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Slowly recovering!

Hey guys!  I just wanted to post a quick note to let you all know that I am resting and recovering from the swim.  I have lots of things about the 36 hours I spent in the water that I want to tell you all about, but I'm not quite ready.  I'm still taking it all in.

After the swim, as you can imagine I had some shoulder pain.  My shoulder pain is mostly gone now (2 days later) with occassional "pangs" every now and then.  I think I can confidently say that I came away injury free!  : )

I have significant chaffing, in some rather odd places.  My left wrist is pretty chaffed up from my watch (and hannah's "friendship" bracelets).  I've got some chaffing on the front of my neck (which resemble hickies, but I assure you they are not) and some on the back of my neck.  The most painful is chaffing around my left armpit.  I did put aquaphor on before the swim began, but only reapplied once as I didn't feel while I was swimming that anything was chaffing (I believe the reason I didn't feel that is because I was so cold).

I didn't really get sunburned, but my face is feeling very rough, which I think is due to wind exposure.

Most of me was swollen or waterlogged, particularly my wrists and hands (I wish I would have taken a picture of that becuase it looked pretty goofy), but its gone down today.

I haven't taken any ibuprofen products today, which is good.  But I am still only able to stay awake for several hours at a time before feeling VERY sleepy.  Yesterday I got in three naps!

So, thank you all again for following me on this journey and expect some more detailed posts within the next few days on all the details of my swim! 


Friday, September 2, 2011

Another Day (and a half), Another Lakke

Paul here.  One last time.  At 3:51 am PDT, after 36 hours of swimming, Emily von Jentzen swam to shore in Chelan, WA and became the first person to swim the length of Lake Chelan. Congratulations Emily!!  I love you and am so very proud of you!!

I am INCREDIBLY proud, humbled, and inspired by my AMAZING little sister with her strength, determination, and enormous heart!!  Well done Emily!!

Thank you all again for your support and encouragement!!

Cheers, Paul B

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Last update until after the swim

Paul here.  This will probably be my last update until after the swim has ended.  Going to head out soon and try to see Emily from the lake shore along the last segments of her route, and then off to the park for the finish.  I will attempt to post updates to her Facebook pages from my phone towards the end of the swim.

Kate Schulz shot a TON of fantastic pictures during her shift on the pontoon boat, which I have posted just a handful of to my Flickr set (, and included below.  Kate will figure out a way to get y'all access to more of her pics soon.

Word from the boat at 6:45 pm was that Emily is still doing well and in good spirits.  Earlier our niece Hannah Davis jumped in and swam alongside Em for a while which perked Em up a lot!  And I just heard that little Katelyn is going to jump in for a dip as well!!

Otherwise, I'm afraid the current ETA as of 6:45 pm PDT is around midnight PDT. She is still about 10 miles out.

STAY STRONG EMILY!!!  You're almost there!!

Paul here with one last word from our sponsors.

An extra special Thank You to our new friends Kim, Shannon, Cheryl, Jordan, and the rest of the great staff at Mountain View Lodge in Manson, WA!!  Their generosity and hospitality have been amazing, and they've gone way out of their way a number of times to help out with some of the logistical challenges surrounding the swim.

So a Lake Chelan sized THANK YOU from Emily, Katelyn, and the support crew!!!

Update - Kim with Emily the morning after the swim: