When the Trip of a Lifetime Spells Danger!

I promised more New Zealand stories, and have been thinking a lot about a scary experience that happened while ironically enjoying one of the most wonderful experiences of my life!  A near drowning and serious injury sustained while swimming with dolphins in open waters, thanks to my Crohn's literally giving my body out and ill-trained staff. 

Swimming with dolphins has always been on my bucket list, especially ever since a 2008 trip to Mexico got cut short when the hotel staff kept breaking into our room overnight - while my girlfriend and I were in the room, mind you! - and we had to leave early.  We had booked a dolphin excursion, and I kid you not, while driving to the airport, the dolphin shuttle passed us.  A collective sigh filled our taxi cab that day that stayed with me for 6 years...  until New Zealand!



Located off the deep Kaikoura canyon, swimming with scores of leaping, acrobatic dusky dolphins is truly one of the most awe-inspiring, humbling experiences of my life, which fills me with a reverence for this beautiful world.  They would come right up to you and circle you with an innocent, yet intelligent curiosity, all the while others would be leaping and diving all around.  It was almost an out of body experience. 



Then something happened toward the end of the swim.  Conditions were moderate to severe, and the water was so choppy that I was one of only a handful of passengers who didn't get severely seasick....  Ah, the irony!!  The Crohnie keeping her stomach under control, while others puked their guts out.

Towards the end of our first swim, I struggled against the current trying to get back to the boat.  My Crohn's fatigue has never come on quicker or felt stronger in my life.  What happens next I outline in my Trip Advisor review for those of you interested in the full story, but long story short, the staff did not catch my distress signals since they were too busy arguing with my husband who was begging for them to help me, while being prohibited from diving back out while the boat was moving.

I was almost sucked under the boat, and then slammed into the side of the boat, when I suffered a severe hand injury.  The staff pulled me up before I got sucked back out to sea, but they didn't even make room for me to sit outside, even though I was unable to even walk.  Nor did they ever think to ask if I needed medication.  A reference to my Crohn's was shrugged off by the very young inexperienced staff, and even after I told them I was pretty sure my hand was broken and I needed a hospital, they made me carry a water-logged thick wetsuit, hood, flippers, mask and all my gear off the boat without assistance.

Terrifying in the midst of beauty.
Fear in the midst of peace.

How do you come to terms with the dichotomies of life with an autoimmune disease?

That's often life, isn't it?  I got engaged in December 2010 and less than a week later came down with one of the worst Crohn's flares of my life, which lasted throughout my wedding planning.  Others have had accidents or challenges arise during unexpected times in their lives.  We can't predict what the future holds, that's for sure!

Nevertheless, life must go on.

We went whale watching the next day, which again transformed me to spend time in the presence of some of the largest creatures on this earth!



I wouldn't change it for the world.  I feel immensely grateful to have been allowed the opportunity to enter the dolphins' world, and for their graceful and inquisitive reception.  I feel awe and love for this planet and a longing to experience so many more experiences in nature!

Crohnies unite!


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