Iron Man competitor Arsiyanti Ardie says swimming in Busselton is vital to her health recovery

Therapeutic: Yanti Ardie considers going to swim in Busselton a 'necessary medical expense' because it helps her to feel so much better. Picture: Supplied.
Therapeutic: Yanti Ardie considers going to swim in Busselton a 'necessary medical expense' because it helps her to feel so much better. Picture: Supplied.

In 2014, The Mail covered the world-first "iron wedding" of a couple as they completed the Iron Man and got hitched at the same time.

Eight years on, and the married couple have a harrowing story to tell, after wife Arsiyanti (Yanti) Ardie fell ill one day in 2018.

"It started off as a bit of a cough, and that turned into a lot of a cough," she said.

Yanti's cough and sore throat soon turned into a nightmare.

When doctors dismissed her throat infection and it went untreated, her body began to turn on itself as well as the infection.

The ironwoman developed severe sepsis and prolonged hypoxia, with not enough oxygen delivered to her tissues and organs.

The hypoxia (lack of oxygen) affected every organ and structure Yanti had, and eventually caused part of her spine to collapse.

"It starts with you not being able to breath," Yanti said.

"Coughing so much I didn't have time to catch my breath, and coughing up blood."

Unbearable: Yanti Ardie's infection started off as a cough, and led to causing damage to every part of her body. Picture: Supplied.

Unbearable: Yanti Ardie's infection started off as a cough, and led to causing damage to every part of her body. Picture: Supplied.

In 2018, Yanti and her husband Kingsley were witnessing a struggling health system.

"We went to countless doctors and emergency rooms. It didn't matter how bad the numbers (vital measurements) were, they didn't care.

"I survived, but a lot of people fall through the cracks because the system is overwhelmed already."

After being "thrown out" of four emergency rooms, Yanti was later medevaced to Singapore

"At that point, absolutely everything was going wrong. You could have asked a kindergartener, 'is she gonna die soon?' and they would've said yes."

At a hospital in Singapore, Yanti and Kingsley finally found doctors that took her condition seriously.

"They figured I was two or three days from dying."

Three surgeons undertook a seven-hour surgery on Yanti's spine, in an attempt to repair her respiratory tract and damage in her sinuses, skull and jawbone.

Re-learning: It took Yanti Ardie weeks to learn how to swim again after an infection damaged every structure in her body. Picture: Supplied.

Re-learning: It took Yanti Ardie weeks to learn how to swim again after an infection damaged every structure in her body. Picture: Supplied.

"Most of the surgery was removing all the infected stuff, and part of it was reconstructive as well."

"It had a pretty significant chance of me not making it out."

While the surgery was life saving, the battle was not yet over for Yanti.

"That was putting the fire out, but even until now, it's been trying to repair the damage."

In a perilous recovery journey, Yanti went as far as Germany for treatment, with her body even more prone to infections that have landed her back in hospital multiple times.

"I've several times come down with real doozies where I was looking at a survival rate of at-best, 40-70 per cent."

"I don't know if you ever get used to it. I think it was much worse for my husband. All I kind of had to do was suffer. He was the one who had to watch me go through it."

Yanti's health battle is ongoing, with chronic hypoxia meaning her tissues are still struggling with inadequate oxygen supply.

"There is no organ, no system or structure that is intact," she said.

New friends: Yanti's swimming in Busselton has brought her together with other swimmers. Picture: Supplied.

New friends: Yanti's swimming in Busselton has brought her together with other swimmers. Picture: Supplied.

With so much of her body affected, Yanti has had to re-learn how to do every physical task, including how to walk, eat, breath and swallow.

"They go through how you put the tongue on the roof of your mouth, move it up to here, you move it back, then you let it go down."

Learning to swim again was a difficult part of Yanti's recovery, and it took her weeks to regain the skills she'd lost to the infection.

Throughout the harrowing recovery journey she found a way to feel at peace, swimming in the sea near the Busselton Jetty.

She said while she had swum in other areas around Perth, there was something "magical" in Busselton's water, that helped her feel so much better that even her GP could tell whether she had been to Busselton recently.

"I consider it a necessary medical expense, coming to stay here (Busselton) once a month," she said.

"There's something about the Busselton water that is really therapeutic, and I'm not alone in thinking that.

"It's absolutely different, in immeasurable ways."

Yanti spends at least one week every month in Busselton, to swim as much as she can in the ocean near the jetty.

Often swimming with a group she met in Busselton, Yanti has also made several friends by swimming in the sea there.

"I'm sure part of it is mental and social as well. There's something so magical about the ocean here, especially around the jetty. I feel more at home there than I do anywhere on land."