Traci Lynn Martin, known as the ‘Mississippi Mermaid’, kayaked through St. Charles Parish last week in her quest to become the fastest female solo paddler on the Mississippi River.
It took Martin 55 days, 8 hours and 17 minutes to complete the goal that she set for herself last year. She needed to break 61 days for the world record.
The nurse from Missouri said her goal in tackling the Mighty Mississippi – along with the world record – was to show people who struggle with health conditions that nothing is off limits to them.
“The record is secondary, just because it’s there and available,” Martin said of why she decided to tackle the river by kayak. “This is basically to show people who struggle with chronic pain and health conditions that your life doesn’t have to be over … there’s still a lot that you can do. If I can struggle through the pain and paddle the entire length of the Mississippi, they can still do the things they love and mean something to them.”
Martin was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in 2010 and with Scleroderma this year.
“When I was diagnosed, I thought my life was over,” she said. “They are both autoimmune diseases.”
The two diseases can cause chronic pain throughout her body, an obstacle she said she had to adjust to during her kayaking journey.
“There’s been two days I had to take the day completely off … that I had to sleep and completely rest,” she said. “There’s been other days that I just paddled 30 miles. The pain in my hands and wrists have been really bad.”
Martin told the Herald Guide last week that she was averaging 50 miles a day.
‘My longest day was 74 miles, but there’s been days I’ve had to go just 20 and 30 miles,” she said.
Martin said her message to people who struggle with chronic pain is simple – “As long as you keep moving, you’ll be able to keep moving.”
“The key is to do the things you love … that gives your life meaning and purpose,” she said. “I hate to think of the number of people who live in pain and despair … it doesn’t have to be that way.”
Martin said during her time in St. Charles Parish she camped by the water and had a visit from local resident Jude Barker – who brought her and her crew food – and St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne.