This article originally appeared in the Charlestown Patriot Bridge
Impossible Dream boat brings encouragement to Charlestown
As Katie Callan crawled out of her wheelchair and onto the netting at the front of the ‘Impossible Dream’ accessible boat just after taking off from the Charlestown Marina this month, she quickly looked around at the water, breathed the fresh air, and watched the boats all around her. It was normal life. There were no hospital walls or rehabilitation machines or medical devices. She began to cry uncontrollably. “I haven’t been outside doing something like this since June 12,” she said, as the fully-accessible yacht charged through to the Boston Harbor for a two-hour cruise for about 10 Spaulding patients who recently had been injured or disabled. “They asked me in the hospital if I wanted to go and I’m a swimming coach so I said ‘yes’ immediately because I’m up for anything with water or on the water. It’s an incredible experience to get out and have a break and feel like a real person again.” She again began to cry. “I have no feeling in my right leg from my hip down,” she said quietly, noting again that her life has revolved around swimming and coaching in her home of Detroit. For DJ Bishop, who is from the Cape Cod area and temporarily confined to a wheelchair, the trip out was a break from such a long time spent in the hospital. Bishop had been a baseball player, and a sporting enthusiast before being injured, and was ready to get active again in adaptive sports. “I really want to get into adaptive sports when I get out of Spaulding,” he said. “I’m looking forward to that. This is great that we can come out and get a break. It helps to push on and to see that this is possible.” Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, the Impossible Dream crew and the Charlestown Marina have engaged in a solid partnership this summer, with the Impossible Dream docking in the Marina earlier this month and making several trips into the Harbor with those who have recently been injured – some of whom are coping with the idea of being a quadriplegic for the rest of their lives and others coping with the fact that they will have a long road ahead of them before they can resume the active lives they once led. “We were thrilled to be contacted by the ‘Impossible Dream’ regarding this wonderful opportunity for our patients,” said Deb Margolis, who coordinated the partnership for Spaulding. “The staff at the Charlestown Marina were very friendly and accommodating. One of the patients who was very moved by the experience, stated that this is the first time she has felt ‘normal’ since being in the hospital. Another patient said she felt like she was on a vacation and that she would never have had this opportunity had she not been in the hospital. It was also great that family members were able to come out on the boat as well so that they could share in the experience.”
Ann Lagasse of the Charlestown Marina said she was moved emotionally by the experience, and couldn’t say how much it meant to her and her husband, Chuck, and their staff at the Marina to be part of the Impossible Dream’s mission here in Boston. “We were thrilled to do this,” she said. “We’re already planning next year and seeing if we can get them up during next year’s Tall Ships event so Spaulding patients can get out and over to the Tall Ships. That’s our goal and we want to make sure that happens. I really feel the connection of us and Spaulding and the boat was very powerful and did a lot of good for those who were able to sail…It will definitely be an annual event for us at Charlestown Marina.” The Impossible Dream was built in 2000 by Englishman Mike Brown, who had been paralyzed while participating in extreme sports. Brown owned a sports clothing company for extreme sports. After becoming paralyzed, he commissioned the boat to be designed so that it was fully accessible for a quadriplegic person. After it was completed, he sailed across the Atlantic Ocean with only a personal care attendant numerous times. When he was tired of his sailing trips, the folks at Impossible Dream were able to purchase the boat.
Based in Florida, they sail up the East Coast every summer to find partners in adaptive sailing programs who wish to take advantage of the boat. In Boston, they found Spaulding and Charlestown Marina, and both Harry Horgan and Deborah Mellen, said the trips in early August in Boston were some of the best sails they’ve ever had. “Today is remarkable,” said Mellen, who is in a wheelchair, while on the boat one Friday earlier this month. “To be able to take groups out who are in rehab right now is incredible. From the beginning, we tell them they should expect this. They should expect to be able to sail and do these kinds of things.
To get in with them so early in the rehabilitation process, that makes this the best sail we’ve had for me. I remember how hard it was when I was in rehab after my injury. This is going to make a difference for them.” Horgan, who is also in a wheelchair, said the program has been very well-received in Boston and he is very excited to see Spaulding and the Charlestown Marina so enthusiastic. “Spaulding’s been known to be very progressive in their treatment and to use the water to challenge people,” he said. “This is going to leave Katie and DJ and all of the rest who participated with a lot of positive memories and momentum. Hopefully, Katie and the others will go back and feel ready to push through. “Our trips are really about encouraging people who have been injured in this way to expect more – to expect good designs for them and if they want to do something, to go do it,” he continued.
“This boat is an example of a paralyzed man who designed a boat to be attractive, accessible and fast. We go up and down the East Coast every summer and share hope and give folks like this some encouragement.” The Impossible Dream sailed on from Boston and finished its East Coast adventure with a docking in Maine.