It took him an hour and 32 minutes – with a stop at each of the jetties to get some oxygen – but Peter Moore, 52, finished the Eastern Cape’s premier river swimming event on Sunday with only 20% lung capacity.
Moore suffered permanent lung damage when he inhaled chlorine gas at the age of 30.
“That swim really took it out of me,” he said. “The one thing we didn’t plan for was that the wind would be that strong.
“The swell was in my face all the time. It was too rough for the canoe.”
Moore’s friend, Nick Neil-Boss, and his Jack Russell, Captain Muffin, were meant to paddle alongside him so he could have oxygen available at all times.
“In the end, one of the paramedic students, Simone Theunissen, ran the whole way, meeting me at each jetty to give me oxygen,” he said.
Moore decided to tackle the SPAR River Mile, held at Sundays River, to raise awareness for organ donation.
He said while he was not feeling too well, as he might have picked up a “little bug”, his spirits were very high.
“So many people came to see me and sign up as organ donors. I now have really big plans,” he said.
Moore, a Sundays River resident and former navy marine, said he signed up for the River Mile as a way to tackle his biggest fear.
“Walking and running aren’t so much of a challenge for me, because you can stop and rest. Swimming is the challenge,” he said.
“I feel like I am drowning a little more every day.
“The water was too rough to launch the canoe that had to carry my oxygen – that nearly ended it there.”
Moore said he was very thankful for the paramedics who assisted him.
“Apart from the girl who ran along the river carrying my oxygen, her friend, third-year paramedic student Nikita Werthmann, [swam] with me.
“She would swim out ahead of me and bring me the oxygen hose to use.
“It was certainly one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life.
“After about five minutes that band just started closing around my chest and it became a challenge just to get to the next point where I could get oxygen again,” Moore said.
“But I would do it again in a heartbeat – that feeling when I got out the water at the end was beyond amazing.
“Doing it in bad weather made my challenge so much bigger and better.
“There are already a few people who have signed up as organ donors. I am so happy . . . each one can potentially save seven lives.”
Moore also thanked his friends Gerald Males and Neil-Boss – and Captain Muffin – for their support.