London, Ont. transplant recipient ready for 18-hour Lake Ontario fundraiser swim

The Londoner's swim is raising money to purchase new equipment that supports organ transplants for the London Health Sciences Centre. Move for Life Foundation / GoFundMe

Jillian Best’s big night is just days away.

The London, Ont., resident is determined to swim 52 kilometres across Lake Ontario this Tuesday, a journey that will take about 18 hours to complete.

“Primarily, I’m excited,” Best told 980 CFPL’s Mike Stubbs on London Live. “There’s a little bit of nervousness creeping in, (but) I feel prepared.”

Read more: London, Ont., transplant recipient trains to swim across Lake Ontario to fundraise, raise awareness

Best is a transplant recipient and the founder of the Move for Life Foundation, which is dedicated to reducing the waitlist for organ transplants.

Each year, one or a group of transplant recipients and living donors participate in a sporting challenge to demonstrate that organ transplantation is life-changing.

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This year, the foundation is raising funds to purchase new equipment that supports organ transplants for the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC).

Read more: London man set to swim 32 kilometres into Georgian Bay for cancer research

Best is taking her challenge to Lake Ontario, and in order to prepare for her upcoming journey, Best has been training for over a year.

“My longest swim was nine hours, (which) covered 25.5 kilometres, or about half the distance of the Lake Ontario swim,” she said. “There was another weekend where I did (a) six hour swim one day and a seven hour the following day.”

“But I feel great, because I was in the midst of a hard training cycle and I was (still) able to complete those swims without any setbacks or injuries,” Best continued.

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Part of her training involves getting used to swimming in cold water, since parts of the lake have “pockets of colder water, as cold as 10 C, (but) I’m feeling ready for it.”

If the weather works out, Best will be hitting the waters on the night of Aug. 3.

Her swim master, who had been monitoring the weather for the past few weeks, will make the final call on when she gets in the water.

Read more: Halifax-area woman takes 30-day plunge challenge to raise money for local food bank

“What we do is we decide when the best time to get in the water is for the projected potential 18 hours that it might take me to cross the lake,” Best said. “Right now, we say Tuesday night, but it might move into the early hours of Wednesday morning (around) 2 or 3 a.m.”

Best was 15-years-old when her mother had a liver transplant in 2004. Best was soon diagnosed with hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia, or HHT.

Her symptoms began to develop in her early 20s. She was put on a transplant waiting list in May 2015 and had her transplant the year after.

Read more: Teen who swam across Lake Ontario for charity takes on Lake Erie

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Now, the transplant recipient is raising awareness and funds to support other recipients as well as donors.

A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to support Best’s mission and purchasing new equipment for LHSC.

-With files from 980 CFPL’s Mike Stubbs

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