Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Taking the Plunge (or not)

Do you know what a polar bear plunge is? Basically it’s a bunch of crazy people who plunge into near-freezing water in the winter, usually for fun, for purported health benefits, or as a fund-raiser. (CNN actually  published an article in January of this year, asking “Are polar bear plunges good for you?”. The jury’s still out).

I am most familiar with the fund-raising variety. This past weekend, my family and I traveled to my home state to support one of these events, which was co-chaired by my brother’s amazing wife. She has been inspired to bring a “Polar Plunge for Special Olympics” event to my hometown for the past four years by their equally amazing son, Hudson, who has Down Syndrome.

There are few words to describe just how cold polar plunging is. It’s COLD. This year, the water temp measured 32 degrees. Fahrenheit. Yes, that’s equivalent to 0 degrees Celsius. Literally, freezing. (Have I made my point?)

Prepping to plunge - after removing ice that had formed on the open water
I have plunged twice in the past. Once in 2011 (I'm the dork on the left in the weird get-up and plugging her nose):

And once in 2012 (again, the dork on the left, plugging her nose):
A mild winter meant standing in lake water prior to the jump - BRRR!

This year, I was on the fence. Last year I decided that I would alternate my fundraising efforts each year between Special Olympics and Crohn’s disease awareness through CCFA. I didn’t want to be asking my supporters for money multiple times in a year, nor do I want to short either organization.

Despite this decision, I knew I would at a minimum attend the event, but still wanted to plunge. Yes, I still wanted to plunge into 32 degree water. I'm freaking nuts.

I checked with my gastroenterologist, and he did not know of any “GI contraindications” for jumping into icy water. Dr. Google didn’t turn up anything, either. Ultimately, my stomach decided for me. Things had been flaring up and after a week of a bland/soft diet, I was finally getting my Crohn’s symptoms back under control. I decided it would be best not to plunge (thanks for helping me decide, Amy!).

Alas, this is just one more thing that Crohn’s got in the way of. BUT – as with other disappointments, I made the decision to look at the bright side: I still got to attend. I took some photos for my sister-in-law; I cheered on my husband (see him and my brother below - btw, that's a wig, not a real mullet) and the other teams as they braved the jump. I got to be there and hug my sweet nephew and support a wonderful organization. THAT is what the event was about.

Dude, they have much better ups than I do
I’m extremely proud of my sister-in-law (my brother, too!). She’s a fabulous parent and person in so many ways, and the fundraising that these four plunges have brought to the athletes in their area have changed the way they compete. It’s phenomenal.

All in all, there were 210 plungers and over $65,000 raised in this small town of 20,000 people. I didn’t plunge, but I am very proud to have been a (minor) participant - Crohn's flare or not.

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