Captain Sandy Yawn is one tough Below Deck Mediterranean boss, but we had no idea she was this strong. The Sirocco's fearless leader opened up to Women's Health about a near-death experience that actually ended up saving her life.
Captain Sandy recounted the time her motorcycle crashed on the way to the Miami Boat Show about three years ago when she was 49 years old. She hit a car, which tossed her through the air, her legs tearing off the handlebars of her bike in the process, and left her with fractured bones in almost all of her limbs. Captain Sandy was brought to the ICU where she had full reconstructive surgery on her foot and ankle, both of which had been completely crushed. "During each of the eight days I spent in the hospital, I just wanted to go home. The pain meds made me feel uncomfortable, and the constant check-ins from doctors prevented me from sleeping. All I wanted to do was rest so that my body could heal," Captain Sandy recalled in Women's Health. "I was so heavily medicated, but I remember what felt like the whole yachting community coming to visit me from the boat show. There was a lot of love in that room. They brought candy, muffins, fruit baskets, and flowers. I gave most of it to the nurses. My stomach was too upset to eat."
Captain Sandy on her motorcycle.
Then, one of Captain Sandy's friends, who is a urologist, asked a colleague who worked at the hospital to check in on her, which was not routine since she was just there recovering from her accident and subsequent surgery. The doctor did a scan of her kidney and found a spot that looked like a tumor that could be malignant, even though she had felt no pain or even had trouble going to the bathroom. However, there was no way to know that for sure unless he removed it through surgery.
Captain Sandy initially brushed this off and didn't go through with the surgery, preferring to focus on recovering from the accident so she could return to her work at sea. But after her urologist friend emphasized how deadly the possible tumor could be, Captain Sandy decided to have laparoscopic surgery less than a month after her motorcycle accident. The tumor ended up being stage II kidney cancer. "Who would have ever thought they would be grateful for being in a motorcycle crash? But I was," Captain Sandy said. "As the doctor explained, it might have been years until that tumor was found. At that point, the cancer would have progressed, and it would have been too late."
Not long after the surgery, Captain Sandy got back on her bike, back at the helm of a yacht, and next year, she plans to get back on a snowboard. She also said that she has kidney scans done every year now to make sure there are no signs of cancer, which there thankfully have not been.
Captain Sandy said that she used what she learned from her health scare while leading the Sirocco crew this season of Below Deck Med. "During my time at sea with a new crew and exciting challenges on Below Deck Mediterranean, I remembered everything my experience has taught me: I don't sweat the small stuff, I invest my time in helping others, and I encourage people to take risks. You never know which risk could save your life."
Watch Captain Sandy's leadership at work, below.