By Wyatt Massey
The bullet shattered Christine Chenet Audain’s arm, but it did not shatter her will. On Feb. 19, she finished third in the 10km race in the annual Swim for Haiti event, marking an important step in her recovery.
Chenet Audain, a Port-au-Prince resident, was shot in her left arm during a home invasion in 2012. Her husband was shot and killed during the break-in and she was rushed to a nearby hospital. With a temporary brace on her arm, Chenet Audain was flown to Miami to meet with Dr. Alejandro Badia for an hours-long bone transplant surgery.
“The bone was totally shattered,” Chenet Audain said. “I could have lost it, if not for (Dr. Badia’s) surgery.”
Dr. Badia, a hand and upper extremity surgeon, visited Haiti to support Chenet Audain in the race.
“Her accomplishment is a great metaphor for the resilience of the Haitian people,” he said in a statement to the Haitian Times. “Despite significant adversity, they rise up and keep moving forward.”
This year marks the third time Chenet Audain has participated in Swim for Haiti. She won the 5km swim in 2016, she said. This year, 20 participants swam the 10km race from Ile des Arcadins to Wahoo Bay Beach Resort and another 40 swimmers did a similar 1.5km race. The competition as a challenge, Chenet Audain said, after finishing third with a time of just over four-and-a-half hours. Completing the distance is testament to how far she has come since her recovery process began five years ago.
“The first weeks of therapy were really torture, but I knew without it I wouldn’t get anywhere,” she said. “Soon enough, I as in the pool every day.”
Swimming offered a low-impact exercise to strengthen her arm. The landscape architect had been an avid gym-goer and practitioner of yoga, but had little experience swimming. Her husband had been a swimmer, though.
Chenet Audain was drawn to Swim for Haiti because of its advocacy and philanthropic work for the country, she said. Proceeds— the event raised over $100,000 this year—go to programs that teach Haitian children to swim.
“I really like the idea of swimming for those aspects,” she said. Adding the event “is trying to provide a better picture of what Haiti can offer.”
The island offers excellent food and artwork, she said, along with picturesque mountains and beaches. She hopes the event will bring in more tourists, she said. Competitors from around the world have come to the races, she said, calling them a kind of family.
There is also beauty in the act of swimming, she added.
“You’re out in the ocean, there’s a sense of freedom, there’s a sense of clarity,” she said. “The other day, we swam through a family of sea turtles. You get those little surprises. That makes it special.”