Woman defies odds, nears goal of kayaking entire Mississippi River at record pace



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BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA) — Known as the ‘Mississippi Mermaid’, Traci Lynn Martin is a nurse on a mission as she kayaks the Mississippi River in hopes of becoming a Guinness World Record holder.  

“I am attempting to paddle the entire length of the Mississippi River … and I’m attempting to set a speed record. I need to break 61 days and I’m at pace to break that,” said Martin.

Tuesday she made her way through downtown Baton Rouge on the river. The water isn’t the only obstacle she faces.

“I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in 2010 and I was diagnosed with Scleroderma this year. They are both autoimmune diseases,” Martin said.

Both diseases cause chronic pain throughout her body.

“The days I’m hurting are really bad, I just tell myself I’ve got one more day left in me and just get out and do the best job I can do today,” said Martin.

Martin is in the kayak with the orange flag, making her way down the Mississippi River. Courtesy: Gayle Rabb

Despite the pain, Martin fights through it just like she tells her patients. 

“So when I would have a patient come into the hospital. I say you got to get up, you’ve got to move. Usually the first thing they would say is ‘you don’t understand how much pain I’m in’ and I can say I do understand I have rheumatoid arthritis,” she explained.

What keeps her going? It is her supporters from all over the United States.

Partner and Ground contact Marv Kusiel said, “Multiple times in every posting we see people say, you inspire me. So it is not just her but it is a whole lot of people going on this trip.”

“My message is you don’t have to paddle the entire length of the Mississippi River, but don’t give up on yourself and don’t give up on the things you love to do because you only have one life,” said Martin.

Martin has paddled over two thousand miles. If you would like to follow her journey you can visit her Facebook group.

Martin is also looking for someone in a boat who can meet her at the end of the finish line in the Gulf of Mexico at river marker 0.

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