(Photo by Julian Vankim)
”We did all our training courses in the University of Texas swimming pool, big Olympic-size pool,” Brian recalls. ”One of the tests we had to pass in order to get our certification was to swim a mile. It didn’t matter how long it took us, we just had to swim it. It was like 9 o’clock in the morning, first thing. Everybody started at the same time. I wasn’t last, surprisingly. But I got about halfway through, and I got really sick to my stomach. I couldn’t breathe. I had to stop and I actually got sick. They were like, ‘Well, you have to finish.’ ‘You’re kidding me. I’m sick. I’m exhausted. I can’t breathe.’ They were like, ‘Well, take a quick 5-to-10 minute break. Drink some water. But you still have to finish.’ So I had to jump back in the pool at the spot I got out. It took me about 35 minutes to actually finish, but it was awful.”
Awful as it might’ve been, it helped Brian turn a corner.
”That did teach me something,” says Brian. ”When I turned 7, I had a really bad breathing spell, had to be rushed to the emergency room. Come to find out that I had an extreme case of asthma. I’ve had asthma my entire life. As a kid I played soccer and I played baseball. After a couple years, my asthma got worse and worse, so I had to stop playing. Every five minutes I’d have to stop and use my inhaler. That was one of my biggest things — finishing this whole mile of swimming. With my asthma, I couldn’t breathe. That kind of scared me. But I took away that even though I have asthma, I may have a spell, it doesn’t prevent me from doing what I want to do or what I need to do. I just need to fight through it. Give myself a break, calm down, and just get back into it.”