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Diana Nyad: Xtreme Dream

Aired September 17, 2011 - 20:00   ET



DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN HOST (voice-over): What began in the bright lights of the press --

DIANA NYAD, ENDURANCE SWIMMER AND RECORD HOLDER: It's almost like a dream to me, but now it's real.

GUPTA: -- turned into agony, exclusively before our cameras.

NYAD: I'm just barely alive.


NYAD: Right now, I'm just barely alive.

GUPTA: This is the story of a superhuman physical feat, of heart break and determination.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There we go, keep it up, Diane.

GUPTA: Now the inside story that no one has seen before. For all that went right and all that went wrong.

NYAD: I'm sick and I'm cold but I don't want to quit.

GUPTA: A journey of courage, 33 years and 29 hours in the making.

For Diana Nyad, it all started two years ago with a birthday, a big birthday. Diana was about to turn 60 years old.

NYAD: I was driving in my car and telling myself, you better get with these life lessons. You can't go back. You better just seize the day. Go forward, and 60 isn't old.

And I was looking at the cars in the rear-view mirror and I - I caught a side of my eyes for a second and I thought, oh, wait a second, maybe I could go back. Maybe that would be the event that would make me feel strong and powerful again would define me again.

GUPTA: But once defined Diana was marathon swimming. In the 1970s, she won races and set records worldwide.

NYAD: I'm interested in the most outrageously difficult goals that I can think of. I feel at the time that it's so difficult. But I get wiser and wiser all the time. GUPTA: Strong, brash, confident - a media darling.

In August, 1978, at age 28, Diana set out to do the most outrageously difficult swim she could imagine, Cuba to Florida, over 100 miles in vicious currents, 200,000 strokes, 60 hours. She had a shark cage built, headed to Cuba, and launched from a beach surrounded by press despite great concerns.

NYAD: And I remember, I got down to the shore with my six handlers and I have a picture of the six of us looking bewildered. We're looking out at a raging sea and white caps.

GUPTA: Her navigator promised calmer seas just offshore. But instead, Diana battled eight-foot swells for almost 42 hours. Hopelessly off course and ravaged by jelly fish bites, her handlers eventually pulled Diana from the water.

NYAD: The weather - I didn't stop swimming for 42 hours. It was very rough. You can ask anybody who's there.

GUPTA: Diana's dream was dashed and her heart was broken.

NYAD: I - I have never had to summon so much will power. I've never wanted anything so badly. And I never tried so hard.

GUPTA: The following year, Diana set the record for the longest unassisted ocean swim in history, going from the Bahamas to Florida. And then, she quit swimming.

NYAD: The day I turned 30 was the day I swam up onto that Florida shore from the Bahamas and I thought to myself, I will never swim another stroke in my life.

GUPTA: And for more than 30 years, she didn't.

Summer, 2009. As Diana nears her 60th birthday, she realizes there's one dream that never left her. So she changes her mind and quietly returns to the pool.

NYAD: I just started going for - to a little tiny country club pool, swimming for 25, 30 minutes. And not fast, just kind of - kind of feeling if the stroke was there, seeing that the shoulders and the elbows and the triceps were going to take the pressure. And I knew that the body was going to have to slowly come to it.

So for the first couple of months, I was just adding like 10 minutes a day.

GUPTA: Not even her best friend Bonnie Stoll knows what she's up to.

BONNIE STOLL, DIANA'S BEST FRIEND: And she started saying, oh, yes, I'm going to go for a swim. I said, really? I'd say, what's going on? She said, you know, my knees have been bothering me. So I'm just seeing what it's like. OK.

And then the times away would be four hours, five hours, six hours. OK. What's going on? Nothing. She wasn't acknowledging. She wasn't divulging any of the information that she was thinking about.

GUPTA: Then early in 2010, everything clicks in to place.

NYAD: And I did a 6-1/2 hour swim, cold. I don't like the cold. I don't do well in the cold, but it was cold. I came out just shivering like this. But that's the day I knew, I said to myself, I've got it. I have it in my spirit. I have it in my body. This summer, I'm swimming from Cuba to Florida.

GUPTA: Cuba, home of salsa and cigars, Castro and communism. Just 100 miles south of the Florida Keys. For Diana, it's a place both complex and captivating.

NYAD: This is a magical place. You know, I grew up in Southern Florida. Had many Cuban friends. It's not just anywhere. It's "Cuba" to Florida.

GUPTA (on camera): Truth is, others have attempted this swim before. Even succeeded. But no one has done it the way Diana now hopes to. Just imagine this, 60 hours in that ocean with no rest, no shark cage, no flippers. Diana wants to set the record for the longest unaided ocean swim in history.

(voice-over): And she wants to set that record at age 60. The plan is audacious and maybe impossible.

DAVID MERCHANT, HEAD NAVIGATOR: The swim itself that she's setting out to do is a super difficult swim. Well, this is the Florida -

GUPTA: David Marchant makes his living navigating Caribbean water.

MERCHANT: Key West is right here. It's 103 miles. And Havana is right there. If it was in a swimming pool 103 miles, it's a long way. But across the Straits of Florida, it's super difficult.

GUPTA: To make it, she'll have to build her body into a machine. So she's swimming every day for 6, 8, 10 hours at a time, hoping to conquer the one dream that has eluded her.




GUPTA: Over 100 miles of Open Ocean stretched between Cuba and Florida. These are waters surging with currents and teeming with sharks. And so far it would take a swimmer 2-1/2 days to cross. If you think that sounds too crazy to even consider, then you've never met Diana Nyad.

NYAD: I feel very centered about it. It's going to be difficult. It could be close to impossible. It's going to be a lot - a lot of long, long hours.

GUPTA: It's a big dream that wouldn't come easily. Succeeding will take Diana's very best and it all starts with perfect technique.

NYAD: Even the best of swimmers have seen me swim and say that's a beautiful free style, very efficient, high elbows. Probably every 14- year-old in this country can swim as fast as I can, frankly, you know, at a good level of competitive swimming. But who's got the mind then?

GUPTA: The mind and the will to do something super human.

(on camera): Just look at that ocean and imagine swimming in it for so far and so long, it would be a challenge for anyone, even a 20- year-old. Diana is three times that age. She's going to have to train harder. She's going to have to train better, to even have a chance.

DR. KEN KAMLER, MICROSURGEON, EXPERT ON EXTREME MEDICINE: When Diana enters the water, she's entering a very hostile environment.

GUPTA (voice-over): Dr. Ken Kamler is a surgeon who specializes in extreme medicine. And he knows exactly what Diana's body will go through.

KAMLER: She wouldn't be able to keep up with the energy and heat loss which she's experiencing.

GUPTA (on camera): It's just impossible to do that.

KAMLER: It's impossible to do that. The water is going to drain her. So she's going to be running at a deficit. And as time goes on, the deficit will increase. And she'll just be providing energy to those organs which are essential for her survival. She's swimming alone but she's actually in a race. She has to swim through Florida before her body deteriorates to the point where she can no longer swim at all.

GUPTA (voice-over): To prepare, she pushes herself farther and longer. And by July, 2010, Diana is ready for her first true test - a 24-hour training swim. Her longest swim in 30 years. If she fails, it means the end of her extreme dream.


GUPTA: Now, the team gathers -

NYAD: My buddy.

GUPTA: -- to meet and to plan with Diana leading the charge.

NYAD: Tomorrow is a tremendous important test of me and my confidence. I want to get out saying, you know what? Yes, I'm tired and I'm a little woozy and I need some whatever, but I feel OK. I - I got more in me. There's more in the tank than this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's call it 8:19. That's when we're going to start your swim.

GUPTA: The next morning, she plunges in to the ocean. With Diana in the water, Bonnie Stoll assumes command. STOLL: Diana, don't worry about it. This isn't the time for that. Don't worry about it at all.

GUPTA: Best friend -

STOLL: One hour.

GUPTA: -- drill sergeant.

STOLL: I'm your first row (ph). Here we go.

GUPTA: Chief handler.

NYAD: Bonnie is a rock. She was a professional athlete herself. She's a take charge, no nonsense, say it in a few words. She knows me as an athlete.

GUPTA: Bonnie will lead an army of handlers that will follow Diana's every stroke to nourish, encourage -

STOLL: Fabulous.

GUPTA: -- and protect her. One of their biggest concerns - sharks.


GUPTA: Luke Tipple is the team's lead shark diver. He knows just how dangerous these waters can be.

TIPPLE: We're you catching this chum box hanging at the back of the boat?

Any particular waters, we'd looking for oceanic white tips, hammer heads, White sharks, (INAUDIBLE) sharks. This animal has evolved to dominate the ocean. They have a sixth sense. They can feel the electricity in the water. They know that we're there.

GUPTA: And that's why, in 1978, Diana swam in a shark cage. Today, she just uses this -

NYAD: Sharks are tremendously sensitive to this. This is actually in the kayak.

GUPTA: It's called the shark shield. And off the Coast of the Bahamas, Tipple shows us how it works.

It's a shark-feeding frenzy at this block of chum until Tipple approaches and turns on the shark shield that hangs right above it. Now, the device emits a strong but harmless signal that overwhelms the shark's senses and forces them to the ocean floor.

TIPPLE: OK. Green light means it's working.

GUPTA: To keep Diana safe, shark shields are mounted below these kayaks. Their electrical signals surround Diana, keeping dangerous predators at bay. They're now thousands of strokes into her 24-hour swim. Diana looks strong, but there's a problem. She's swimming in circles.

STOLL: You veer off a little and then you veer off a little more, and you veer off a little more and you end up in Jamaica.

NYAD: So after a while, I can't - every stroke I look at that boat for hours and say, stay closer, stay here, stay here, you know? And so I drift. And every time I swim 30, 40, 50 yards up that way and back, you know, we're adding on. We're going to add on miles and miles.

GUPTA: And that could mean the difference between success and failure. Fortunately, today's swim was about time rather than distance.

STOLL: Beautiful.

NYAD: Hey, guys. We made it.

GUPTA: And at 8:19 the next morning, she emerges from the water.

STOLL: There you go. There you go.

GUPTA: Exhausted.

NYAD: I was racked. I mean, I was dehydrated and depleted much, much more than I knew I was when I was in there.

GUPTA: And yet she feels confident.

NYAD: I really pushed. I was like cranking it. There was just never a doubt. There was never a moment of doubt. I felt very strong, I must say.

GUPTA: Strong. But it's only been 24 hours.

Does she have what it takes to survive a swim more than twice as long?




GUPTA: August, 2010, Diana Nyad is raring to go and ready to turn her dream into a reality. She arrives in Key West.

NYAD: So here we go.

GUPTA: The weather seems right. The time has come. Tomorrow, Diana plans to leave Key West for Cuba and start to swim.

NYAD: I feel very ready. I can't wait to get in there and start proving what I can do, you know, get across.

GUPTA: Now hundreds of things must go exactly as planned. Even one snafu could sink the swim.

NYAD: How's it going, Bonnie?

GUPTA: Best friend Bonnie Stoll, well, she's dealing with the first problem.

STOLL: The big green bag I'd take it, right?

NYAD: It's all the bathing suits and gear and caps. I thought, I should carry those all in my carry-on luggage.

STOLL: Bright green big duffel bag -

GUPTA: Turns out, even elite athletes sometimes lose their luggage.

NYAD: Thank you, thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good luck to you in finding your bag.


NYAD: That's probably going to be harder than Cuban authorities.

GUPTA: And even harder than finding the lost bag, finding three days of perfect weather. So every few hours, Diana calls weather experts Jennifer and Dane Clark to check in. As Jennifer monitors the Gulf Stream, Dane keeps a close eye on the weather.

DANE CLARK, WEATHER EXPERT (via telephone): Hello?

NYAD: Hey, Dane, it's Diana Nyad.

D. CLARK: Hi, Diana.

GUPTA: Diana needs very light winds.

D. CLARK: Friday and Saturday look like light wind days. I'd say probably a marginal weekend.

GUPTA: Warm water and good currents -

NYAD: What about the Gulf Stream?

D. CLARK: It changes pretty quickly -

GUPTA: -- and calm seas.

NYAD: You know, I don't want to be swimming in a three-foot sea. It's murder. I can't make much progress. But a one-foot sea I can. So it's - it's just such a crap shoot, you know? Let's talk end of day no matter what.

D. CLARK: OK. Great.

NYAD: Thanks, Dane.

D. CLARK: Bye, bye.

NYAD: Bye. Oh, I don't know.

STOLL: You know, according to him, it looks like it's not going to be even this good for a while.

NYAD: Yes.

GUPTA: Diana has the big decision to make, take the risk and swim in iffy weather. Or wait for a calmer window that might not come. She decides to go for it.

And now everything in Key West kicks in to high gear. The team flies in. The boats are prepped.


GUPTA: And then just hours later, the forecast turns and the weather window vanishes.

STOLL: That put everything to a halt. It was a setback. For many, it was a chance to improve things for others on the crew. But Diana got to have her very first meltdown which she needed to have.

NYAD: I just bawled like a baby. For me, it's like will this ever happen?

GUPTA: So Diana decides to turn that disappointment to her advantage. She takes the team out that night for a training swim, her goal, to work out a few kinks.

STOLL: All right. We're ready. 7:40 in the water, OK?

GUPTA: Like her difficulty swimming in a straight line. To succeed, she must follow the boat's course exactly. It's something she often struggles to do.

NYAD: I've got this fogged over goggles. And I'm - I'm just able to catch a little bit of a - not a full focus, just a semi-focus 60 times a minute. So I'm out there in, you know, never-never land in my mind.

GUPTA: To help, David merchant and kayaker Stuart Nex have rigged this contraption. Take a look. It's an arm that extends from the boat and trails red fabric and fiber optic lights beneath the water. This streamer should provide Diana a path to follow in the water like a lane line in the pool even when she's swimming in the pitch dark.

STOLL: Well, we're wondering if she sees the fiber optic that they set up under water, because we see it now for the first time because it's just getting dark.

GUPTA: If it works.

STOLL: She's not usually this distance from the boat. I don't mean far, I mean perfect. She's definitely seeing something. This is exactly where we want her. GUPTA: It's a big success and the team feels great again. But not for long.

Summer, 2010 drags on. Days pass. Then weeks. Waiting for good weather - that never comes. But Diana refuses to give up on her goal to swim this summer.

So for now, it's laps in a local lagoon instead of ocean swims. Avoiding a snorkler instead of sharks. There's a lone chair instead of handlers. Diana's dream is slipping away.

NYAD: Agonizing. It's not just been frustrating. It's been absolutely agonizing. I wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night at 3:00, 4:00 in the morning, worried I wouldn't even get my chance.

GUPTA: But all of the laps in the world can't change the weather.

MARCHANT: It's rough out there now. It's blowing at 15 knots of wind. There'll be six-foot seas out there.

GUPTA: By October, conditions had bottomed out. Navigator David Marchant.

MARCHANT: Last weekend, the water temperature dropped almost six degrees over the weekend. And that's - once it gets below 80 degrees, she can't do it.

NYAD: I feel like I've let down but -

GUPTA: After training a year, handling countless logistics, and spending a huge chunk of her savings, Diana makes a gut-wrenching decision.

NYAD: I've just been under tremendous stress. It hasn't just been -

I sat down and wrote this e-mail a couple of days ago. The day has come. The seas here today have dropped to 77 degrees, far below my threshold for such a long time in the water. This was my year. I believe I got in better shape both body and mind than even in my 20s. It has been draining, whipping of the spirit to feel it all slipping away from me.

STOLL: It's over for this year, and that's OK. The swim will get done. It will get done in 2011, it will get done with much less hardship because so much has been taken care of in a nutshell. The end of this journey has become the middle.

GUPTA: Now, all that's left is to pack up and say good-bye.

NYAD: There's my big bear. You made me strong when I was getting weak. So from the four of you to be in it with me and say you still want to do it next year, I don't think I could do it without you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're our inspiration.

STOLL: She's allowed to be disheartened. Oh, my God, I have to do it again. And - and then that will come to, I can't wait to do it again.

GUPTA: Los Angeles, six months later.

NYAD: I'm now full tilt, you know, in it again.

GUPTA: You see, for Diana, quitting wasn't an option. Yet, these long months of training have taken a toll on her 61-year-old body.

NYAD: This shoulder has a tear and the biceps tendon which is right - right in the front here. I went to an orthopedist. He said it's a considerable tear, you'll never do it.

GUPTA: So Diana found another doctor with a better outlook.

NYAD: Icing around the clock.

GUPTA: And at another swimmer's suggestion, she even changes the stroke she's had for over 30 years.

NYAD: You're going to start swimming with your shoulder down. So I changed my stroke. I'm in way better shape even than last year. Just strong, strong, strong as a bull.

GUPTA: Strong and ready. But can the new stroke work? Will the torn shoulder hold? And will that weather ever come?




GUPTA: Diana Nyad has worked, waited, and worried, anxious to attempt her history-making swim. Finally, on August 5, 2011, Diana gets an urgent call from meteorologist Dane Clark. The weather is here. This is it. Diana's 40-person crew hops flights across the country. Diana lands in Cuba -- again. Team Nyad converges at Havana's Hemingway marina.

So here we all, after all of the false starts, disappointments, training, logistics, two years of waiting, Diana Nyad is about to take her shot. The swim starts here. She's going to jump in and then for 60 hours, she's going to push her mind, push her body to the human limit.

At sunset, August 7, Diana makes her way to the water. And then it's show time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At 7:46 p.m., she entered the water.

GUPTA: Diana starts swimming, leaving Cuba behind. She expects to have 60 grueling hours of swimming ahead. Sunrise, August 8, Diana Nyad has been swimming for nearly 12 hours.

DAVID MARCHANT, TEAM NYAD: We're holding our own now. So we're happy. GUPTA: David Marchant is charting the best course he can. But conditions are not what he'd hoped.

MARCHANT: Well, it's calm for a sailor, but for a swimmer, it's rough. We could have done with a longer flat patch which we didn't get. We're hoping the winds were going to go down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was beautiful when we started and got choppy pretty quickly.

GUPTA: Bonnie Stoll's eyes never leave her best friend.

BONNIE STOLL, TEAM NYAD: I feel bad, it's cold out there. I feel good that she's powering on.

GUPTA: Powering on requires near super human effort. Now Diana's body is in survival mode, diverting blood to essential organs, the heart, the lungs, the brain, and to the muscles propelling her through the water with every stroke. She's likely burning 700 calories an hour now.

STOLL: Her stroke has not changed. She was getting 52 and a half strokes an hour. She's now getting 54, a stroke and a half faster.

GUPTA: Though her stroke looks smooth --

STOLL: Blowing the whistle.

GUPTA: There is a critical problem.

NYAD: I never thought I would have to deal with something like this. It's excruciating.

GUPTA: Excruciating pain in Diana's good shoulder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right shoulder, the left shoulder is the bad one.

GUPTA: Diana calls this a 10 out of 10. So Bonnie throws everything at it she can -- ice --

STOLL: Put ice on the shoulder, medication.

GUPTA: Medication.

STOLL: Anybody can do it healthy, right?

NYAD: That's what I say.

GUPTA: Encouragement.

STOLL: Your stroke is beautiful. This is going to be painful. No doubt about it. We're all going to help make it better.

GUPTA: David is also having problems.

MARCHANT: The current's really stronger. They're pushing us that way. We're still above the line, but, oh, trouble. The swim due to the current, pick the weather and go with it and hope the currents would be favorable.

GUPTA: The waves are up and the water is surging in the wrong direction.

MARCHANT: It's amazing. We're not even going sideways, we're going backwards.

NYAD: I'm going to let it go a little bit.

GUPTA: Despite it all, the rest of the operation is running smoothly. This red whistle signals Diana for fluids and feedings. One boat accompanies Diana, others nearby carry crew. Tenders run between boats each hour, switching captains and handlers. On the roof, the shark team scans for predators as the kayaks ride beside Diana carrying shark shields. The one constant -- Diana, stroke after stroke, minute after minute.

By afternoon, Bonnie is battle worn, and her Team Nyad shirt shows it.

STOLL: This is espresso goo. This is peanut butter on bread she didn't want it. It's the day in the camp of Nyad, I guess.

GUPTA: A very long day in the camp of Nyad.

STOLL: We go out of Cuba, it's beautiful. It's flat, it's calm. In an hour and a half, it's getting choppy. And we weren't expecting it.

GUPTA: Still, Bonnie remains hopeful.

STOLL: Look at her, that shoulder is hurting so badly. Her pace has not changed and her stroke has not changed. She's fighting through every second, every second.

GUPTA: Almost two days of tough swimming, still lie ahead. And for Diana Nyad, the worst is yet to come.

NYAD: Bonnie, Bonnie.


GUPTA: Diana Nyad dreamed of swimming from Cuba to Florida, of gliding across the surface in flat, calm seas. Now 14 hours into her swim, very little is going as planned. The water is choppy, the current, surging, and a terrible pain in Diana's shoulder is taking its toll.

NYAD: It's like it's going to come out of its socket.

GUPTA: She pushes through, driving her body forward, stroke after stroke relying on sheer will power. It's not easy. Simply keeping her body fueled is a delicate balancing act. Even getting her something to drink can be a challenge. Handlers on the crew boat mix this special concoction of water, sports drinks, and electrolyte powders. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something we came up with trial and error.

GUPTA: The mix is then delivered to the handler John Hennessey on the export boat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're looking for 20 ounces and she's been doing 24. That's really good.

GUPTA: He rigs a line to drop a pouch of fluid in to the water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I blow the whistle. She'll see it trailing and she'll pick it up and drink out of it.

GUPTA: There's no question for Diana, hydration is serious business. She loses six ounces of fluid for every half hour she swims. Without enough replacements, she can become delirious and physically unable to continue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She drank about eight ounces, that's a good quantity for her.

GUPTA: Now rehydrated, Diana takes just five more strokes, and then crisis.

NYAD: Bonnie, Bonnie --

GUPTA: See, Diana is getting enough fluids. But now she's not getting enough oxygen. So team Nyad snaps into action.

STOLL: You are OK. We're going to walk you through this. Come closer to the boat, talk to me. That's it, just like that, just like that.

GUPTA: Bonnie frantically waves for Diana's doctor, Michael Broder.

NYAD: It's making my muscles feel weak. I can't get oxygen.

STOLL: Don't talk, don't talk, I'm going to talk to you. You're probably having a little asthmatic attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Michael only, Dr. Michael only.

STOLL: You're cool, OK, no worries, he's right here. I love you.

GUPTA: Michael jumps on to the escort boat.

NYAD: Having trouble catching my breath the last two hours and it's turning into wheezing and my throat is closing up a little bit.

DR. MICHAEL BRODER, TEAM NYAD: We're going to give you this inhaler.

GUPTA: It sounds like asthma. But Diana has never had an asthma attack while swimming. Now on top of the pain in her shoulder she can't breathe.

NYAD: I just lost all of the blood in my muscles. STOLL: Let it get back. You don't need to move anywhere.

BRODER: Let me give you a puff from here.

GUPTA: The inhaler seems to help.

STOLL: Listen, is it taking effect?

NYAD: I think so.

STOLL: Don't leave until it's taken effect. Slow it down for a mile. Slow it down.

NYAD: I feel a little dizzy.

GUPTA: And everyone breathes a sigh of relief -- for now.

Dr. Michael Broder wishes he could do more. But, of course, his patient is swimming in the middle of the ocean. So he does what he can.

BRODER: We gave her a couple puffs of the inhaler and sounded a lot better.

GUPTA: The star athlete is limping along. But the rest of the operation is going well. Shark diver Luke Tipple hasn't seen any sharks swimming below.

LUKE TIPPLE, TEAM NYAD: I'm doing a perimeter check, being cautious.

GUPTA: And the captains seem happy with the course. But all eyes remain on Diana. It's now midday.

NYAD: I can't even swim.

GUPTA: 18 hours into the swim.

NYAD: My muscles are going without oxygen. They're stressed.

GUPTA: It's become clear that Diana's condition is not improving.

BRODER: Is it your lungs?

GUPTA: Dr. Broder has to do something drastic. He grabs his stethoscope and plunges into the water. First he tries the inhaler again. Then he returns to the boat and rigs this oxygen tank. He jumps back into the water desperate to give Diana some air.

NYAD: I'm hyperventilating all the time.

STOLL: Here we go, that's good.

GUPTA: I've bet you've never seen an ER visit quite like this. It doesn't seem to make much difference. Every few strokes now, she stops and she gasps for air. Despite it all, somehow she keeps on swimming. Diana Nyad's body is failing her, and it's her will and that dream that's taken over, pressing on through sunset past the 24-hour mark and into the darkness.

Midnight, hour 28. Diana has been swimming with bad asthma for nearly 12 hours. And she's battling through every stroke in the pitch dark. Any bright light even from our camera could attract sharks. So you see a small red beacon on her cap bobbing up and down, that's the only way her handlers can see her. And now the shoulder pain is so great that in desperation Diana switches to breaststroke. Bonnie urges her on.

STOLL: Here we go, here we go. Keep it up, Diana.

GUPTA: And then -- Diana stops, exhausted and feeling helpless.

NYAD: Are we actually going forward at all during the breaststroke?

STOLL: Absolutely.

NYAD: Because you know, I'm in trouble. I'm trying everything I can.

GUPTA: Team Nyad is now gravely concerned. But they still cling to hope.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Still it's going to be a tough fight. We're getting there. She needs to get her second wind and we'll be great.

GUPTA: She manages a few free style strokes, and then stops again.

STOLL: Talk to me. Let's take some liquid, OK?

NYAD: I'm just barely alive, right now, I'm just barely alive.

STOLL: OK, talk to me.

GUPTA: For Diana, after 33 years and almost 29 hours, this could be the end of the dream.


GUPTA: For 33 years, Diana Nyad has dreamed of this swim from Cuba to Florida. But for the last 24 hours she's been swimming in constant pain, barely able to breathe. Now she swims in total darkness. All our cameras can see is the beacon on the back of Diana's cap and that red streamer underwater. But we hear her voice. Diana is in dire shape.

NYAD: I'm just barely alive. Right now, I'm just barely alive.

STOLL: OK, talk to me.

GUPTA: Her best friend and chief handler Bonnie Stoll is concerned and for the first time senses the end may be near.

STOLL: Whatever you want to do, I am with you. You walk away from this, no matter what, no matter what.

GUPTA: Diana approaches it boat and calls out to David Marchant.

NYAD: All night, all day again, and another night. I can barely make an hour right now. I'm just dead.

GUPTA: For Diana, this is the moment, the extreme dream could be over.

NYAD: I got a tremendous will, but I'm in bad shape with this. I just can't.

BRODER: Grab on to your shoulder, OK?

GUPTA: After more than a full night and a day, Bonnie and Dr. Broder together pull Diana from the water. The swim is done.

NYAD: I can't do this.

BRODER: It's done, you did it. You did it, you did it.

NYAD: I'm so sorry. Are you disappointed?

STOLL: Nobody's disappointed. Nobody, nobody.

NYAD: Not on this day, it's too rough. I'm too cold. I'm sick.

STOLL: OK. OK. Stay there. Can we have a towel?

GUPTA: Diana is shivering as Dr. Broder takes her vitals. He's worried about hypothermia.

NYAD: I know I could do it in the right conditions.

STOLL: Don't go there. This wasn't it. This wasn't it. This wasn't it.

BRODER: You left nothing behind. That's all you can do.

STOLL: This was a success. OK? This was a success in every way. Did you get to the other shore? No, but you did inspire everybody who knows you.

NYAD: I can't do it.

GUPTA: A tender takes over and takes Diana to the crew boat for medical care. She's violently sick to her stomach and exhausted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just going to put this around your arm.

GUPTA: She's in desperate need of IV fluids. Finally three hours later, Diana eases her way from the deck to the couch. Now, she just wants to talk.

NYAD: I just can't believe how it turned out. That day, I just couldn't believe it. Swimming for hours and hours just taking a few strokes, going on my back, trying to get it together. Between the asthma and the shoulder and the waves, I just didn't have a chance. What a shame. What a shame. All of the training, my god. It's such a big dream. It's a real bitter pill to swallow.

GUPTA: Just hours later, I call her from on assignment in Africa.

Hey, Diana, how are you feeling?

NYAD: I'm so disappointed Sanjay. I tried to find a solution like every 20 minutes, tried something new. I couldn't be the swimmer I am. I just couldn't do it.

GUPTA: I know. But you inspired so many people along the way.

NYAD: It was the right decision. There was nothing left.

GUPTA: You are the type of person that leaves everything out there. So when you say the body could not overcome, it's more true in your case than anyone else I know.

NYAD: Honestly, doing half of it was much, much tougher, much more duress on the body than had I done the whole thing with the right circumstances.

GUPTA: Be well, take care, recover. We'll talk soon.

NYAD: Bye, thanks for calling. Bye.

GUPTA: As the boats arrive back to Key West, Diana shares a moment with Bonnie.

NYAD: I put so much in to this dream. I just couldn't imagine this coming down this way and just couldn't imagine it.

STOLL: You put so much of yourself into it. And you deserved it. You deserved it. I feel complete, 100 percent.

NYAD: All right, buddy? Thank you. Thank you for these two years. Nobody can ever take it away from us.

GUPTA: Look at you?

NYAD: How you been?

GUPTA: A few weeks later in New York, Diana and I had a chance to reflect on dreams and what they mean.

Some time has passed. How are you doing?

NYAD: You know, Sanjay, I almost couldn't believe it happened. It's suddenly over, I'm on the boat. And it's just this is reality. I kept saying to myself, that didn't happen. We haven't gone yet.

I think there was part of me that said that is what happened and I had to just come to grips with that reality. There's nothing more this body could have tolerated. So there was a human spirit that gave everything. And my head was held high and I'm proud of what we did. But the swimmer feels cheated.

GUPTA: The dream and the athlete remain restless. But the heart and the mind are transformed.

NYAD: I was a person until I decided to do this swim that was just racked with regrets all the time, just constantly beating myself up. Once I started the swim and decided to live my life with a big dream and dedicate myself to it and live it with passion no matter what happens, no matter what happens, live your life this way.

GUPTA: Every time I talked to you, literally, I said this before, I walk away so inspired. I really want to grab this day by the tail. Is that the message to everybody else?

NYAD: It's the message. If every day I can think, I looked at that sunset today, I did it. If I helped someone and I felt the joy of my body, you lived a good life. What more can you do? What more can you do?


GUPTA: These Cuban shores, Diana left them to set out to do the impossible, to swim across that ocean all the way to Florida. We now know she didn't make it. But I couldn't help but think that one the point. Her two attempts separated by more than 30 years teach us something far more important, to try hard, to have courage, to dream big at any age.

I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Thanks for watching.