Who is Femke van HAL
Written by Arjan van HAL
My name is Femke, I am 10 years old and I live in Uithoorn (the Netherlands) with my mom, dad, little sister and our dog.
In general, I am an extremely happy, and busy girl! Yes, that is partly because of the ‘Angelman syndrome’, but the ADHD was a bonus. I love hugs, toys that make a sound and things that give me an immediate reaction. I love everything that gives me a thrill; speedboats, sandpits, going fast round corners in dad’s car, watching movies while I’m sitting on the couch hugging mom, jumping on a trampoline, swimming pools and ball-pits. Luckily, my little sister and my parents love those things as well, so we have a lot of fun together!
I can’t speak, so I will tell you everything with facial expressions, body language and by physically walking away, sitting down, pulling your arm, banging my hand on the table or simply bringing a bottle when I am thirsty. When I like you, you will know. When I don’t… you will know as well. I don’t need words to tell you what I want, I just need you to pay a little attention. If you do that; we will have great conversations.
When we go somewhere, I will need some help with a lot of little things like getting dressed, eating, walking, stairs, stuff like that. And when you leave me unattended, I will cause more chaos in 1 unsupervised minute than most people will be able to sort out (or fix) in a day.
During the week I will attend a day care centre, where I play with other kids and my teachers. Together we try to learn new things like eating with a fork, colouring, walking stairs, and picking up small toys. One of the best things of school is that I get picked up in the morning with a big bus; I can see over the other cars!
Once or twice a week I go for a run with my dad, where I get to use my ‘Racerunner’ that had been provided by the local athletic club. I need my dad, because I can’t do the steering. He will run besides me, and make sure I don’t end up in a ditch or a bush. Sometimes we go over a bridge, and we get to run down REALY fast! I like that so much; I will happily do all the work to get up the bridge in the first place.
I hope to meet you someday!
Who is Chris GALE
My name is Chris, I am British and was born in Monaco in August 1990, which means I am currently 30 years old and will be 31 a few weeks after the swim. I currently work and live alone in Genk (Belgium).
After graduating from my Master of Science in Supply Chain Management and International Logistics, I received an amazing opportunity to work for the largest transport company in Belgium: H.Essers. My philosophy about work is to start at the bottom and to make my way up after gaining the knowledge. For this reason, after I graduated with my Master’s degree, I started as operator in the warehouse, then as forklift driver in a different warehouse, before becoming a local truck driver in Belgium and then an International truck driver. During this later period, I loaded, drove through and unloaded in 24 countries all over Europe. Having gained a certain amount of experience, I then moved to the office life where I started as a dispatcher, arranging the driving programs for a group of 20 trucks driving in North Eastern Europe. My last function on the transport side of the company was as “operation support” which means I took a step back from daily operations and I started a more analytical job.
After 4 years discovering Europe and the transport department of H.Essers, I made the switch over to the warehouse department where I am now a Process Engineer with my most important project being in charge of the “5S” method in over 55 warehouses in 5 countries in Europe for H.Essers.
My skiing accident in 2009, where I fractured 2 vertebras in the middle of my back, gave me a first wakeup call – it made me realise that I should enjoy the moment and seize any interesting opportunity because it is impossible to say what will happen the next day. I started swimming at the age of 4, and since tried out various different sports such as tennis, football, track running, but always kept swimming.
When I turned 18, I was able to join my father in training and competing in triathlons and marathons, winning my age group a few times. All this was a build up for the ultimate triathlon: a full distance Ironman. It is important to know that a marathon is 42,2km only running and usually on the road without car traffic. A triathlon is the combination of 3 sports during the same event in the same day: swimming, cycling and running. Depending on the triathlon, the distances for each sport vary accordingly. A full distance Ironman is 3,8km swimming, 180km cycling and finishing off with a full 42,2km marathon. I completed my first full Ironman in Nice in 2013, only 4 years after fracturing my spine.
To make these long-distance events, like the marathons and the Ironman, more interesting I decided to make them a little more challenging by doing all the running parts of the races dressed in my Union Jack Morph suit. This was a huge success with all the spectators along the different courses and has forged some unforgettable memories. In 2018, I did my second Ironman again with my father, this time it was on a very flat course in Maastricht (Netherlands).
My motorbike accident in 2019, was a bit more spectacular than my skiing accident. I was involved in a head-on collision with an Opel Omega (check it out on Google – it’s a tank) which destroyed my body and set my motorbike on fire. After a 15m flight in the air, my head struck a street light thus stopping my involuntary dismount. While never losing consciousness, I suffered multiple fractures all over my body.
The most impressive ones were the open fracture of my left thigh bone, aka the strongest bone in the body and the fracture and dislocation of my left elbow. I also fractured 2 fingers, my left thumb and little finger, cracked my pelvis, permanently damaged the median nerve from my elbow down to my hand and wrecked the cartilage in my right knee. Thanks to my protective gear, I got away with only 1 open wound on my left hand as my glove was ripped off during the impact. This second major accident gave me my second wakeup call to date, on how important it is to enjoy the moment and again seize any opportunity I came upon to have fun and smile. Which is exactly why I am smiling so much even though I have a cast on my left arm, 2 metal pins in my left hand, a titanium rod in my left thigh bone and am sitting in a wheelchair.
My doctors at the time, of course had to validate this outing from hospital, on the basis I needed constant attention because I could not stand up alone nor move my wheelchair with just 1 arm. This was a very peculiar moment for me, especially after living an independent life for 10 year; there I was back in a situation where I needed constant help and assistance from someone else.
After spending the last 6 months month of 2019 in between the hospital and the rehabilitation center, i was able to return home a few days before Christmas. Those 6 months were a roller coaster of emotions, which I managed to over come thanks to the amazing physiotherapists from the St-Ursula hospital in Herk-de-Stad (Belgium). They encouraged me to push myself and train right until the pain limit. This enabled me to be back on my feet and in the office again as of January 1st 2020.
My last operation was already planned a few weeks later in February, to remove the still damaged catilage from my right knee. The following day from that operation I signed up for the Channel swim ! I needed something in the close future to trigger my motivation and to make sure I build up my muscles again. I started swimming that summer with mixed feeling due to how my body was now shapped. My left arm can no longer fully stretch out and the sensation in my left hand is a constant challenge.
My real training started in January 2021, where I slowly started building up my swimming sessions and core trainings. To help my body understand the cold better, right from the begin of the year I turned off my home heating. It is important to know that this year’s winter was particularly cold and the temperature in my home was often around 12° celcius.
Furthermore, I have also stopped drinking alcohol and eating fast food. Nevertheless I have made sure to put on 10kg of fat to create a layer against the cold water from the Channel. Thanks to my past sporting experience I am taking on this challenge with no coach, and during the swim it self i have composed in my eyes the best assitance team possible composed of my closes friends. They have been instructed to turn the crossing into an awesome party you can follow on YouTube LIVE !
Click the link below to join the Official AngelSwim 2021 YouTube Channel !