Jill Yoneda eating ribs, her first solid food after having two ribs removed from her body for slipping rib syndrome. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

Saanich swimmer has ribs removed, posts them on social media

Jill Yoneda makes light of rare surgery for ‘slipping rib syndrome’

For her first solid food in three days, long distance swimmer Jill Yoneda ended her hunger eating pork ribs.

It was a rare bit of dark comedy for the light-hearted Yoneda, who was recovering from surgery that removed two of her own ribs. Before disposing of them on Wednesday her doctor took a picture of the two bones and texted it to her. Yoneda posted it to social media to the surprise – and amusement – of her friends.

“I may still have been under the influence of the painkillers,” smiled the 44-year-old resident of Cadboro Bay. “And look at them, they don’t look what I thought they would look like.”

The joke went full circle when a friend slow cooked pork ribs on Thursday for his family with full intentions of bringing the leftovers to Yoneda on Friday afternoon, which he did.

Luckily, Yoneda isn’t particularly shy about bones and blood. The rib removal was her 16th surgery but had been bugging her for a while. She felt the rib ‘pop’ on every swim stroke of her 80-kilometre Strait of Georgia crossing this summer.

“The ribs thing was new,” Yoneda said. “I’m not sure if it was caused by swimming. We thought it was just going to be the one rib but the doctor found a second one out of place too.”

The surgery required cutting Yoneda’s obliques and sewing them back up, which means no exercise for eight weeks.

Read More: Straight chasing swimmers attempt Juan de Fuca crossing

Read Also: Perfect day to swim 29km across the Salish Sea

They were the bottom two ribs on her right side. It’s equivalent to getting half the storied “hourglass” rib removal that famous women of the last century were rumoured to have had done, Yoneda said.

“The half-hour glass, that’s my other joke,” she said.

The ribs needed to come out anyways, but they’re also impeding Yoneda from continuing lost-distance swim attempts. The medical office assistant was a competitive free diver who recently switched to long distance swimming. In 2017, Yoneda swam the 10-hour, 29-kilometre Juan de Fuca Strait route of the Salish Sea that resembles Marilyn Bell’s route of the 1950s. In 2018, she swam a double crossing of the Strait of Georgia, about 80 km, starting at Nanaimo’s Neck Point and swimming for about 25 hours to Lasqueti Island.

In the process, Yoneda raised $16,000 for the Canucks Place children’s hospice in Vancouver.

Now she’s ready to announce her next goals, two big swims leading towards a world-record distance attempt in 2020.

The 2019 plan is to swim from Bute Inlet, which juts into the mainland at the north end of Vancouver Island, and go 100 kilometres south along the Island. Then in 2020 she plans to swim from Vancouver Island on a 180 km long journey that navigates Lasqueti, wraps along the Sunshine Coast, loops into Howe Sound and then finishes at Stanley Park. If organized correctly, Yoneda would swim a touch further than Diana Nyad’s 180 km swim from Cuba to Florida in 2013.

It helps that Yoneda is sponsored by Aquasphere wetsuit company who provide a coach and a nutritionist. Still, all her plans are made assuming her body will let her.

Yoneda has always lived with drop foot on her left side, which is manageable but cumbersome with a brace. She’s endured nine surgeries alone on her legs to free up space for her arteries, which are trapped by the growth of her calf muscles.

“I keep getting these setbacks with my body,” she said. “I just don’t understand why my body rejects what I try to do. Maybe if I didn’t push my body to extremes, these things might not happen, who knows.”

It wouldn’t matter, she’ll be swimming anyways.

“In the water I’m free of the pains, free of the brace and unencumbered. I hope to raise $100,00 for Canucks Place.”


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