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To row across the Ocean - disability not an obstacle


Andrew Halsey from Britain was invited by his friends and came to visit Belarus to tell how being a person with disability and having the diagnosis “epilepsy” one can live a full life and even to perform extreme personal deeds. In 1997 Andrew Halsey took a rowing lesson, several times rowed upon the Mercy river and then alone crossed the Atlantic Ocean from Tenerife to Sent-Lucia island in West-India, having rowed 4800 km. in 116 days. In 1999 he decided to cross the Pacific Ocean from California to Australia. But after 267 days, having lost 30 kilos of weight, because of bad weather conditions and lack of food he admitted that he couldn’t continue the trip.

On October 31 Mr. Halsey met with Belarusian journalists and answered the questions about his life with disability, his job and about his experience of crossing the Atlantic Ocean alone.

“Before the illness I had dreamt to work as a butcher, construction worker, salesperson. But I had a child dream. When I was 9 I saw several brave people tried to cross the Ocean. After school I ran home to watch TV and with admiration watched the news about their expedition. Unfortunately those people disappeared in the Ocean and I could never accept the fact. That is why when I learned about my diagnosis “epilepsy” I took it not as some limitation, but as a new opportunity to prove myself that I can realize my child dream".

“It was very difficult to raise money for my first expedition. After potential sponsors found out that I am an epileptic they refused to give the money. They told me that I was crazy. I had some money, my friends helped me. I managed to raise sponsors’ money for the second expedition. Perhaps people believed in me. Both my boats were equipped with special fixation equipment for my body, to prevent from falling into the water during epileptic seizure. It is hard even to imagine what could have happened in that case…”
“I’m very often asked about sharks, - Andrew laughs. – What can I say about it? After the expedition one lady showed me the picture of a shark and asked: “What is that? Is it a shark?” I laughed and said “No. It’s the breakfast".

Mr. Halsey seems to be very sociable and communicative person, but he several times said that he hadn’t suffered from loneliness during his expedition: “Loneliness is a huge test during difficult and long expedition. Your consciousness can alter because of heat, lack of sleep and normal food. And in addition to it the lack of communication… But I could easily handle the loneliness, maybe I have already used to it. This trip even helped to prove that a person with epilepsy CAN do everything by himself, without any help, during a seizure. I understood that I can take care of myself. Of course, the seizures gave me a lot of trouble. The worst thing was that very often after the seizure I lose memory and don’t remember what has happened the last hour or two. The first seizure happened just after the start. I regained consciousness in the boat. And at that moment coastguards noticed me. Thanks to TV news about my expedition they recognized me and wished good luck and to have a good trip. I was just looking at them and didn’t understand what they were taking about and why they wished me luck…”

I was asked many questions about the problems with the preparation to the expedition and about the difficulties that were awaiting me. “Sleep is the biggest problem, - Andrew shared his experience, - I had to sleep in terrible conditions: water in the boat, it was very noisy all the time, waves, even fishes which jumped into the boat. It is not possible to stretch your legs when you sleep in the boat and I had to spend all the nights in embryo position. What concerns water, I took supply of fresh water to the first expedition. During the second one I had special equipment for processing salt water to suitable for use water. And of course I tried to gather every rain drop, it is good that at equator rains fall almost every evening. Food is another topic for discussion. You have to take very nutritious food. And don’t forget that every day you will have fish for dinner”.

“The expedition gave me the chance to get to know my hidden possibilities and personal qualities. I started to write and wrote down all the travel notes. The book based on these notes “Halsey’s hurricane” has been published lately. By the way, British journalists call me “Hurricane Halsey” for my ability to get to hurricanes during the expeditions”.

After the meeting with journalists Mr. Halsey visited the center of rehabilitation of Belarusian association of disabled. During the conversation with the employees of the center and the Office for the rights of persons with disabilities Andrew Halsey stated how important such a rehabilitation center is, where disabled can go in for sports and art, communicate, get specialists’ help. Special attention of Halsey was attracted by the computer class: “It would be good for me to study in such class and learn more about computers. I still write letters on paper and registered my first e-mail only 5 month ago”.