Brother channels sister’s strength to swim English Channel

Family is a word that means something different to everyone, but for one local brother and sister duo it means never facing a problem alone, even in the most adverse of times. Now his sister’s battle with a rare syndrome has turned one man to his next challenge.

Here’s the scenario: 26 miles, 14 hours of open-water swimming and in 60 degree water. That is what one man is doing in the name of family — a word that means so much to this brother and sister duo that he is training for one of the biggest open water swimming challenges there is.

“More people have climbed Mount Everest than swam the English Channel,” said Jeffrey Ozanne, 24. “The Coast Guard gives an adult male 1.5 hours in the water before he goes unconscious.”

It not only challenges you mentally but also physically.

“It’s keeping your body up in the aerobic range in order to survive without getting too hypothermic,” Ozanne.

That is why he trains at Lake Neshonoc every week, but it’s what you don’t see that is keeping him afloat; the drive behind every one of those strokes.

“I know I am not just doing it for myself. I am doing it for my sister,” said Ozanne.

Last October, his 27-year-old sister, Emily, had knee surgery and when she woke up, she was in excruciating pain.

“There isn’t a day that goes by that my whole body isn’t burning with electrical jolts of pain and just stabbing and throbbing,” said Emily Ozanne.

In December, Emily was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome.

“It is known as the suicide disease because of the excruciating pain you experience day in and day out,” said Emily.

There is no cure to CRPS and many doctors don’t even know exactly what causes it, but that hasn’t stopped her from trying to relieve the pain.

“I have tried everything possible that the medical field has to offer from medications to procedures and I had very adverse reactions to everything I’ve tried to the point that I lost my ability to speak and write. I got my speech back thankfully, but the writing is still a work in progress,” said Emily.

Emily has now turned to alternative methods, like hyperbaric oxygen therapy, but that is not covered by insurance.

“It can run anywhere up to $2,500 per session,” said Emily.

Through all of this, the medical bills and the pain, Emily insists on putting on a smile on her face.

“We are a pretty positive family. We are fighters and you just take one day, sometimes one minute at a time,” said Emily.

That same mentality is what Ozanne will be relying on when he takes on the English Channel to raise awareness and money for his sister’s condition.

“It means the world to me. I am so blessed to have a brother that would take on such a task and have such a huge act of kindness for his sister,” said Emily.

If there is one thing they want others to take away from their story, it’s understanding.

“I think because it’s a pain we can’t relate to, it’s easy to dismiss. It’s not an open wound or broken bone. We know what that feels like because we have been there, or we’ve known people who have been there. But it’s a pain that is very much real and very much excruciating,” said Ozanne.

“Be kind to everyone because you don’t know what battle someone is fighting,” said Emily.

And so with that, Jeffrey will continue to train and with his family’s support and sister in mind, nothing’s going to make him swim off course.

“For anyone who understands family, that means quite a bit,” said Ozanne.

Ozanne is one of four people swimming the English Channel in September. Earlier this year, he had to qualify for the swim by completing a six hour, open water swim in 60 degrees so he knows what he is up against and we wish him the best as he takes on this challenge for himself and his sister Emily.

If you would like to help the Ozanne family out, they have a GoFundMe page set up at ‘Swim4Emily.’ They also have an account set up at Wells Fargo Bank, just tell the bank to put it under the account “Swim 4 Emily”