Who Says I Can't Maureen McKinnon (long version)

Uploaded by WSICTV on 05.07.2012

Sailing is probably not the first sport someone with a disability would choose but
as you will see with our first athlete it makes a lot of sense
for someone with a disability skippering a boat like these behind me is a
liberating and exhilarating experience
Our first athlete not only races at the olympic level but she teaches others
with disabilities how to sail as well
Her name is Maureen McKinnen
Maureen lives in Marblehead Massachusetts
She was a nurse and a recreational sailor
What sort of sailer?
One that didn't take it very seriously at all
You just liked it
Yea, I loved the whole
social aspect of sailing that's what I sort of
liked to do and I did race but
honestly I hardly new
bow from stern back then.
Could you describe the day of the accident?
It was just a beautiful sunny day in august
and um
I wasn't doing anything risky or strange
It was in the middle of the morning and I tripped on a rope that happened
to be tied between a bollard and a boat stanchion
and it happened to be right next to an ocean seawall.
Those darn ropes.
Yea and I went flying over the seawall and down thirteen feet
and landed in a sitting position like this and broke my back.
So as soon as that happened I sort of felt
I could see the tide washing out and I just felt as if my life force in my
legs just kind of washed out
with the tide
You knew enough about anatomy to know what had happened
I'd gone to nursing school and I knew exactly what had happened
I knew I was going to use a wheelchair for the rest of my life
There's your milk. You can start with your milk.
Maureen and her husband Dan had two children after her accident
Then she decided to try an adaptive sailing program
Getting back into sailing and finding success in sailing gave me a whole
new purpose in life
and also completely surprised me. I was absolutely incurable
as a competitive sailor ever since.
When someone is knocked flat like Maureen and I were, we cannot surrender, we
have to find a way back and for many sports is the way
It's something we can adapt to our situation and then focus on
Make no mistake,
we are willing to focus harder and work harder
than anyone else and will ourselves to get good
And once we do the way Maureen eventually did with sailing
the bad feelings melt away
and that builds back the super critical self-esteem
we humans all need to be healthy and happy
Our Hoyer slings get better every year 'cause we find
a better solution
Maureen got a job,
maybe the perfect job for her
She's the director of disabled sailing at Piers Park Sailing Center. Its mission
is to bring sailing to local children and disabled people of all ages and
Richard Ramos is a quadriplegic with limited use of his arms.
I sailed as a child
I grew up on Nantucket.
I broke my neck when I was eighteen, uh sixteen
and uh...
hadn't been in the water
in thirty years
What did it feel like
after thirty years to be able to sail again?
The freedom ...
you know it's hard to describe
In three-dimensional space you have basically six degrees of freedom
If you're in a wheelchair you're only using about two of those degrees of freedom
If you're on a boat
you've got all six degrees of freedom You can move forward
go back hopefully not too often
you're heaving up and down you're swaying from side to side
you're pitching, you're rolling, and you're yawing
It's that freedom Richard talked about that all sailors are attracted to
whether they have a disability or not
I officially have an addiction to sailing
On this day Maureen is on Long Island Sound near Rye New York
taking part in the Robbie Pierce regatta
Her coach Betsy Allison is there
get them sculling around
Betsy and Maureen met in 1999 when Maureen began training for the
2008 Paraolympics to be held in Beijing
She was in a two person event called Skud 18
Her teammate would be Nick Scandone
Nick had been diagnosed with Lou Gherig's disease
In October of 2007 Maureen and Nick won the trials in their class
Nick was given five years to survive and this was his fifth year. His wife Mary Kate
Scandone came up to me and said you know Betsy that just gave me another
eleven months with my husband
And it was again purely through shear will and determination
that Nick beat all the odds that the medical world put on his survival
Maureen was on top of the world
they were going to compete in Beijing
I'd won the US trials
I'm going to represent my country. Life is just
exactly what I've always wanted to be. I was in between uh…a training in Miami
and a regatta and then
that phone call came in and um...
and they said
something's happened to Trent
The phone call was about Trent
Maureen's two year old son
He had been brought to the hospital the night before with flu-like symptoms
He stopped breathing there's swelling in his brain
The doctor gets on the phone and basically says if you'd like to see your son again
you should probably get on the plane right away
I don't know if he'll be alive by the end of the day
Needless to say I got a panic call in the morning
and without thinking just said well let's get you to the airport let's get you
home so that you can take care of your family.
So the scariest thing that particular day was
you know when you get on the plane they tell you turn your phone off
The scariest thing was turning the phone back on when you landed
'Cause we didn't know whether our son would still be alive when we got there
Trent was alive
and the next day doctors performed an
eight hour operation and took a mass out of the back of Trent's head
Wow that is an impressive scar
So that's where they cut him open...
he got his skull taken out right there
They came to the room and told us that they had gotten the entire tumor
and that the edges were clean
and uh... that things looked good
There was
six months of chemo
that we were
told we were going to face and then there was going to be
two months of radiation after that
So we had this big decision
What do we do? I mean do we just…do I quit?
How can I be a mom with a kid with this kind of cancer
and train for the olympics. How can I do that?
And uh... but then we remembered that
Nick had Lou Gherig's disease
and Nick wasn't going to make it to another olympics
There was no
substituting? Yea according to the rules
he could not substitute me and I could not substitute him
It goes to the second place team
So, we thought about that for about a day or two and we just decided you know what
let's just re-frame this
let's think about how we're going to do this...how can you not do this
How can we not move forward with an olympic dream? We basically rallied up
friends and fellow sailors from our community here in Marblehead. They were amazing
and my daughter's friend's parents and the school system and my church
and everybody um…
and everyone just came together. I never had to worry about a meal; meals were
on our doorstep when we came back from the hospital
people…sailors would come and they would mow my lawn
By the time they got to Beijing
Nick's physical condition had deteriorated further. His coaches had to modify the
steering and seat systems and had to change the electronic controls from
toggles to buttons to accommodate the weakening of his fingers. Nick required
feeding and hydration between races sometimes intravenously
Despite it all
Maureen and Nick won the gold
Their win was the first time the US paraolympic sailing team had won a gold
medal in the history of the games
Maureen was also the first female gold medalist in the history of the
paraolympic sailing regatta
When you see this out do you
immediately go back to that moment on the mental stand? It's almost as
though every time I look at it
I smile, I hear my anthem
and I see my flag
because that's what I saw
when this got put around my neck And Nick Scandone
was right there next to Maureen
I grabbed his hand
and we both put our hand up in victory and I knew I had to hold his
hand up there
because he couldn't hold it up himself you know
but I just wanted everyone to see how
his spirit is and how victorious we both felt
at that moment. It was really something else
Nick Scandone died the following January at the age of forty two
Al right bye thank you. Bye guys
Trent is now five years old and doing fine
Trent, ready?
Can you check
the bubble gum on the bottom of your shoe like this?
Looks ok. No bubble gum.
That's pretty good huh?
He's just moved on you know he tells people
that he had a really big boo boo in his head once
and that's why he's got a scar and he'll show people the scar. That's all.
And now
it's that time in the show when I get to do the athlete's sport with them
You really know what you're doing. And of course you know the water here but
Who Says I Can't race you
All right let's try it. Ok
So I challenged Maureen to a race
I must admit I do have some sailing experience but not at the olympic level
We had a crisp spring day to sail in Boston harbor
Oh there good
Continuing to come about
Wow it's howling out here
Ready about. Hard to lee.
That was quicker Much better
Now where are they?
Wave comin'
Ok so this is what we're gonna do
we're going to come around
we're going to match them
Want to wing and wing it?
I think this is great
there she is cranking away
right next door
Well we've definitely got some
more breeze in about 3 or 4 boat lengths
Nice close race
I had a nice lead going into the final stretch
But then Maureen and her partner
pulled an olympic gold medal move
and just squeaked ahead of me at the finish line
We won! We won by a nose!
The winner of the gold medal in Beijing
beat me by three feet
That's not too shabby. We put our sails out wing-on-wing and we just got some speed on
them on the down wind. Nice job! Hey! We were on the water!
I say often to people that
I don't regret
becoming paralyzed at all
In fact I wouldn't want anyone to take it away. I wouldn't want to re-do that one
Thought I'm ready for a cure and I'd be really happy to walk again…normally
Being paralyzed and
also having these opportunities in sailing have
completely molded my life in a way that I would never have seen happen
This is exactly the kind of spirit and attitude that inspired me to make this
and with Maureen it continues undiminished as she's training now
for the london 2012 games
That is Maureen McKinnon
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