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Alumnus Doug McConnell pursuing "Triple Crown" of open water swimming

Alumnus Doug McConnell pursuing "Triple Crown" of open water swimming

On June 28, 2014, Doug McConnell, 56, '79 BUS of Barrington, Illinois, will swim 28.5 miles around Manhattan in the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim (MIMS). Completion of this swim will earn McConnell the "Triple Crown" of open water swimming, having previously completed swims across the English and Catalina Channels. Worldwide approximately 83 people have achieved the “Triple Crown,” and of those, only 15 have completed these three marathon swims over the age of 50. Using endurance swimming as an opportunity to make a difference to the ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) community, McConnell and his team created “A Long Swim,” a fundraising and awareness-building campaign in 2011, which has raised more than $220,000 for scientific research programs at the Les Turner ALS Research Laboratories at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. In conjunction with the MIMS, McConnell will be fundraising again for the Les Turner ALS Foundation and also for Swim Free.

A lifelong swimmer, McConnell has completed numerous open water swims. In August of 2011, he became the 48th person over the age of 50 to swim across the grueling English Channel.
McConnell swam nearly 30 miles in 14 hours, battling heavy waves and enduring pitch black darkness. In September 2012, he swam The Catalina Channel, 22 miles of ocean that separates the Island of Catalina from Point Vicente in California.

McConnell’s routine includes daily swims, logging a minimum of 35,000 yards (approximately 20 miles) per week, plus three hours of cross-training at the gym. As training intensifies, McConnell will increase the distance of his swims and train in open waters, such as Lake Michigan and Lake Zurich. The regimen is rigorous, especially when incorporated into a busy life of work, charity and family commitments.  

“We are proud that ‘A Long Swim’ has become one of the most successful marathon swimming-oriented fundraisers in history,” said Doug McConnell. “Our past successes inspired me to pursue the ‘Triple Crown’ and continue to bring awareness and funding to ALS research.”

McConnell’s efforts are driven by the memory of his father David who passed away from ALS.
David was diagnosed with ALS in 1994 after having lost strength in his arms nearly two years earlier. Unlike most people with ALS who live between two and five years after the onset of symptoms, David McConnell lived with the disease for 14 years.  

“I saw firsthand how ALS affected my father and the struggles he faced with daily activities.  Those struggles are profound and far more difficult than most people can imagine. Open water swimming, with its physical and mental demands, helps me put into perspective the challenges people with ALS go through every day.”   

In late 2009, McConnell’s own health was threatened when he developed a severely herniated disc between two cervical vertebrae, resulting in the loss of all use of his left arm. After physical therapy and other unsuccessful treatments, McConnell underwent a cervical disc replacement procedure with the Medtronic PRESTIGE® Cervical Disc system. An alternative to spinal fusion surgery, the device is designed to maintain motion at the treated vertebral segment. The surgery was successful and Doug was back in the pool six weeks later and slowly built back his endurance. Today McConnell is healthy and swims without pain.

Risks associated with the PRESTIGE® Cervical Disc include but are not limited to allergic reaction to the implant material and numbness or tingling in the extremities.

Doug's story is inspirational, but his athletic achievements are not necessarily representative of the typical PRESTIGE® Cervical Disc patient. As with all therapies, results may vary, and this therapy may not be for you. Talk to your doctor.

“We are thrilled that Doug has remained dedicated to both swimming and to the Les Turner ALS Foundation,” said Wendy Abrams, executive director of the Les Turner ALS Foundation. “His efforts and those of the ‘A Long Swim’ team have informed countless people about ALS and raised significant funds for local research programs.”

McConnell has secured financial support from Medtronic and is approaching other companies and individuals for contributions.  

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a terminal neuromuscular disease that attacks a person’s muscles, gradually robbing them of their ability to walk, speak, eat and breathe, yet usually keeping their mind intact. At any given time, approximately 35,000 people in the United States are living with ALS. While treatments and interventions can help alleviate some symptoms and prolong survival, there is currently no prevention or cure for ALS.  

Les Turner ALS Foundation
Since 1977, the Les Turner ALS Foundation has been a leader in research, patient care and education about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig's disease, and other motor neuron diseases (MND). The Foundation serves more than 90 percent of the ALS population in the Chicago area, providing a wide range of services, such as support group meetings and respite grants. The Foundation is affiliated with Northwestern Medicine where it supports two scientific research laboratories and a large multi-disciplinary clinical program.

Swim Free
Swim Free is a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the level of safety for participants and organizers of events in and around the water. Swim Free accomplishes its mission by providing safety certification programs for all types of event volunteers. In the past three years, Swim Free has raised over $350,000 to promote the health improvement of children and adults through swim and get everybody in the water, safely and comfortably. The organization has made dozens of direct donations to learn-to-swim programs, community pools in underserved areas, environmental groups concerned with water quality, and other swimming programs. Swim Free also donated 1,200 swimsuits to NYC children who could not afford them.

About PRESTIGE® Cervical Disc
Developed in collaboration with surgeons by Medtronic’s Spinal division based in Memphis, Tenn., the PRESTIGE® Cervical Disc (www.prestigedisc.com) is designed to maintain motion following surgery while replacing a diseased disc that is removed from a patient’s cervical spine. PRESTIGE® Cervical Disc provides patients suffering from single level cervical disc disease (radiculopathy and/or myelopathy) presenting with herniated discs or vertebral bone spurs an alternative to motion-limiting spinal fusion.

About Medtronic
Medtronic, Inc. (www.medtronic.com), headquartered in Minneapolis, is the global leader in medical technology—alleviating pain, restoring health and extending life for millions of people around the world.

Visit www.ALongSwim.com for more information and follow “A Long Swim” on Facebook.



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