Freedom is…being in a pool. Well, in my world anyway. When I was younger, I loved swimming. My brother and I practically lived in the ocean on weekends. We had a pool that we always played in. I was on a swim team (but really only because my sister was on it and I wanted to do whatever she did). My family water skied as often as we could. If it was water related, I was down for it!
In my teenage years, I didn’t swim quite as much. I guess I just got busy with dry land activities. I played softball in high school. I hung out with friends at places other than the beach. Then college and work became priorities. And by college, I clearly mean partying, which involves liquids other than water.
But as I got older, my physical limitations got more pronounced. While I used to play 3rd base on my high school softball, team, I found myself coaching an adult league because I couldn’t run anymore. Dancing turned to watching dance competitions on TV. (My friends Dr. Barbie and Mr. Dr. Barbie and I are pretty much obsessed with So You Think You Can Dance.) My life of activity was quickly turning sedentary. I fell so often that my scrapes were getting scrapes. (And for the record, I still call them “owies”.)
But then I moved to the desert where I rediscovered my love of the water. The hubs had a pool at his condo. He would go out for walks with the dogs and I would spend 45 minutes in the pool. There is nothing more freeing to me than to be gliding with ease through the water. I can’t hurt myself! Ok, well I’m sure I could hurt myself. Sometimes I misjudge the wall when I’m doing the backstroke. But, what I mean is I can’t fall down. When I walk, there’s a good chance gravity will win. In the pool, I win. I am in my element. Plus it’s apparently good on the joints and all that other medical mumbo jumbo.
Yesterday, I went back to the pool for the first time in nearly 7 months. At first I wasn’t medically cleared because of my zipper. No, I don’t really have a zipper on my body, though for repeat surgeries, that would probably come in handy. I refer to my back scar as my zipper, cause it literally runs the entire length of my back. Then my legs weren’t working enough where I would have been able to keep them down. My physical therapist told me they would just float to the surface. That sounded frustrating. But last week they said I was finally at the point where they thought I could handle pool therapy. The only down side is that there isn’t a physical therapy place with a pool out here. The only one closed shop years ago. But I did find a local pool with a lift, and I decided I could figure out the rest on the fly.
I waited for a day when my parents would be coming down so they could take me. In case anything went dreadfully wrong, I’d like them to be there to help me out. We drove over to the pool and I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait to get in. I even bought a new swim outfit consisting of board shorts and a rash guard so I didn’t have to be nervous about being in a bathing suit in public. We got there and were informed that the pool didn’t open for an hour. My excitement started slowly fading into nerves as I sat there waiting. What if I couldn’t control my legs? What if I got tired? What if I got stuck in the pool? What if, what if, what if?
Then came the moment of truth. The man who operates the lift told me it was ready. As I transferred over to the chair, I asked him if he’d done this before. He said he operated the lift every day. I told him I meant, had he been on the lift and dunked into the pool? He said he had and it wasn’t scary. He began to raise me up and swing me slowly over the pool. A couple old ladies watched me. Old people love me because they have someone to feel bad for.
Then came the dunking. My dad was recording it on his phone to put on Youtube. I guess it could be used either as self-motivation or a way to earn a million visits if something went terribly wrong. You can’t say the man isn’t always prepared. I was finally lowered into the pool. I unclasped the belt and pushed away from the chair. My arms propelled me in the water back over to the side of the pool.
And it hit me: I was free! At that point in time, I wasn’t the girl in the wheelchair. I wasn’t the person with the legs who were betraying her. I was just someone going for a swim in the water. It was amazing! It was liberating! It was earth shattering!
It was exhausting! Seriously and undeniably exhausting. After 7 months of sitting around on my behind, I’ve realized exactly how out of shape I am. And I realized how all of my physical therapy isn’t nearly enough. For once since this whole mess started, I’m actually excited to be doing physical activity! I can see where this will be beneficial, both mentally and physically. I can work on leg movement, but then I can swim laps like a pro. I can do work and I can be free.
I can be free!