After year of recovering from serious injury, Seymour man swims under the Golden Gate Bridge


Persistence will carry you a long way if you let it, and so will a positive attitude.

Put both of them together, and you might find a way to do what you thought was impossible.

That’s at least true for Tim Molinari.

[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]

It was May 2016 when the Seymour resident was seriously injured after a fall while trimming a tree.

A little more than two years later, Molinari found himself diving into the Golden Gate strait to swim across the body of water that connects San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean in San Francisco, California.

It was not simply a personal accomplishment for the 61-year-old father of three, but a way to honor those with a hand in his recovery and a testament of the strength of the human spirit.

The injury

Molinari is a busy man.

He drives a truck for Premier Ag and the U.S. Postal Service, is a fundraiser for the Milan Hoosiers ‘54 Museum and officiates high school basketball. He also helps with maintenance at Southern Indiana Center for the Arts.

One evening at SICA, in May 2016, he had to trim a dead tree limb hanging over the center’s lawn in front of the amphitheater.

He was about 20 feet in the air and cut the limb with a chainsaw.

The base of the limb hit the ladder, plunging him to the ground.

“I threw the chainsaw and landed on my right side,” he recalled.

Molinari remembers receiving a phone call from his wife, Bridget, shortly after by happenstance and telling her he was injured.

He didn’t think it was too bad at first, but then he quickly realized the severity of his condition.

People who were at the center called for an ambulance, and first responders took him to Schneck Medical Center in Seymour.

“I don’t remember a lot after that,” he said.

He had multiple internal injuries in addition to breaking his pelvis in multiple places, right arm, ribs, nose and sustained a concussion.

He was taken to Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, where he remained for three weeks.

He had a surgery on his arm, countless tests and blood samples along with a number of appointments.

The internal injuries took the longest to heal, and he needed six pints of blood.

“It was a long slog because we thought we’d had it taken care of, but then I’d slide back,” he said.

Molinari returned home a few weeks later and was in an immense amount of pain and had to use a walker.

The former high school and college long-distance runner had to learn to walk again.

“A 6-inch step looked like Mount Everest to me,” he said, describing physical therapy. “I’d try to lift my right leg, and it wouldn’t go.”

Molinari gradually improved and was able to officiate a few high school basketball games, something he has done a lot over the years.

“My first goal was to get back on the court and get officiating, but I was pretty weak,” he said. “That was a goal not because it was a big deal, but because it gave me a target.”

Molinari said there “was a whole army that helped” bring him back to health, including the people who found him, first responders, doctors, nurses, family and more.

“It was a long list,” he said. “I have to thank my wife first. She was always there.”

He was persistent through his recovery. He did not do more or less than what doctors told him. He said he became religious about his therapy.

“If they told me I had to walk across the living room four times a day, that’s what I did,” he said.

He wants to be an example in a positive way for people who have been seriously injured and recovered.

“I was put in this situation for some reason,” he said. “I believe in fate, and God had something in mind.”

He fully recovered a year later, he said.

“I wanted to get back to where I could be active again,” he said. “I think we’re all here for a purpose, and I want to make a difference.”

The idea

Molinari’s right shoulder was not healing properly and felt stuck, as he described it.

“I couldn’t throw anything,” he said.

So doctors suggested he swim.

Molinari was impressed with how swimming helped regain mobility in his shoulder.

Then he got the idea to do something for all of the people who helped him reach his recovery as he read businessman Steve Fossett’s autobiography.

Fossett, who also set many records in aviation and sailing, swam across the ocean beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, and Molinari wanted to do something similar.

“I thought that if I could do something like that, then I could show everybody that helped me that I didn’t waste the opportunity they gave me to get better,” he said.

That led to some research where he came across the Sharkfest Swim, which took place last month. It’s part of a series where people swim in bodies of water around the United States and world.

He registered for the race less than a year out and before beginning a regimen of swimming.

Why not? He had come this far and had been through so much. It was time to do something big.

Persistence drove him again.

“I went on faith knowing that I could do it,” he said.

Molinari knew he had to begin training, so he would wake up at 4:30 a.m. a few times a week to swim in the Seymour High School pool.

“It was a commitment on my part,” he said.

At first, he would make it one lap before he would have to stop and catch his breath.

Then he swam a quarter-mile. Then a half-mile. Then it was a full mile.

Soon, he was able to complete the prerequisite of swimming a mile in 40 minutes.

He then trained at the lake at Mutton Creek Estates, where he lives.

He admits it was probably interesting for others to see him out in the lake swimming across, but he was on a mission.

The swim

It was time to head for the race, and Molinari boarded a flight with his family to San Francisco. Bridget and their children, Christina and Timothy, also joined him.

Race day rolled around July 22, and he dove into the 63-degree water from a ferry that took he and 130 others out for the swim.

He participated in the wetsuit portion of the event, a first for him.

“That (swimming in the wetsuit) was actually quite an adjustment,” he said.

So was swimming in the waves and currents, he added.

At first, he noticed lot of people who were in kayaks and waverunners to monitor the race and watch.

“My thoughts went to everyone that helped me out over the last two years,” he said. “And here I am under one of the world’s most iconic bridges doing something that I could not have done even before my accident.”

As he crossed under the bridge, he flipped on his back and was in awe of its beauty, but he also wanted to remain focused.

That was difficult because his thoughts kept coming back to his family, medical staff and friends that helped him reach this point.

“They all had a piece of putting me back together,” he said. “It’s a long list.”

The swim is 1.6 miles and was conducted when the tide would be neutral. Participants were given 75 minutes to complete it.

Molinari finished first in his age group with a time of 41:02.

Climbing out of the water and greeting his family was something he won’t soon forget.

“It was a really emotional experience, and I was grateful,” he said.

Molinari hopes his story reaches people who experience similar circumstances where they have a major setback and need the motivation to know they can be stronger than before.

“I want to people to know that even if they face significant challenges, then they can add determination and a positive attitude to their situation and it can become a temporary setback instead of a permanent one,” he said.

He’s living proof.

No posts to display