Shirley Mansell lives out a long-time dream in the Sea World pool with Howie the rescue dolphin.
Shirley Mansell lives out a long-time dream in the Sea World pool with Howie the rescue dolphin.

Brave Shirley’s illness can’t take shine off dolphin date

PROVING dreams can come true regardless of age and health, 74-year-old Pimpama resident Shirley Mansell recently fulfilled a lifelong wish to swim with a dolphin.

Shirley, given just months to live due to a terminal cancer diagnosis, took to the water at Sea World late last month and could not stop smiling.

Daughter Kelly Connolly said while the family was still processing the diagnosis, it was wonderful that her mum had been able to have this long-talked-of experience.

"She has always loved swimming and loved dolphins, so put them together and she was in heaven - she absolutely loved it," Kelly said.

A former swimming teacher and social and competitive swimmer, Shirley hadn't been in the water for about 20 years due to health issues. But Kelly said her mum had continued to enjoy getting out and about, even when not fully mobile.

Shirley Mansell meets Howie the rescue dolphin with a Sea World trainer and Arcare’s Kurt Oliver.
Shirley Mansell meets Howie the rescue dolphin with a Sea World trainer and Arcare’s Kurt Oliver.

Originally a Queenslander, Shirley spent decades in Sydney before moving to the Coast last year due to her health and to be closer to her daughters and grandchildren.

Kelly said moving her mum to the new Arcare Pimpama had been a good decision, letting them spend much more time together, including at family dinners.

It was Arcare that organised for Shirley to enjoy a swim with the 11-year-old rescue dolphin Howie at Sea World.

Manager Vicki Cain said Arcare's general philosophy was "How can we?" when it came to making things happen for residents.

"When Shirley came back from the hospital, we sat down and asked ourselves, what can we do to make a difference in Shirley's life?" she said.

And according to Kelly, her mum couldn't have been happier.

In fact, the only ones not so impressed were the grandkids, who just wanted to hop in too.


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