Learning to Swim Again

Survivor Tracy Virant with swim coach/therapist Patsy Shropshire

I had a stroke almost 20 years ago that paralyzed my right side. Before the stroke, I was independent and owned a retail store. After the stroke, I had to take a less demanding job with less responsibility for less pay — not what I had planned or wanted, but life goes on. Eight years ago, I discovered Stable Strides Farm therapeutic horseback riding. Learning to ride a horse did great things for my self-esteem, balance and muscle strength. Besides riding for exercise, I compete in disability horseback riding and have earned several ribbons and trophies.

Two years ago, I started doing therapy in the swimming pool with physical therapist and former swim coach, Patsy Shropshire. She asked me if I knew how to swim. Of course I knew how to swim, but what could I do now with one arm and one functioning leg? Patsy replied, “Let me think.” Before long she had me doing the back stroke with a life jacket and then with no life jacket. Next, Patsy asked if I could tread water; “Why not!” I said. It was not long before Patsy had me doing everything, even putting my head under water and swimming a short distance. Five months in, I was able to dive into the pool and swim laps.

In 2015, Patsy decided to teach me how to snorkel in the swimming pool. Last summer, we were able to take a trip to Balmorhea State Park in Texas. It is a “lake” with steps so you can safely enter the water. Snorkeling in the lake, I was able to see different fish, turtles and things growing under the water. It was awesome!

Now Patsy and I go to the YMCA twice a week (my Y does not charge physical therapists to work with members in the water) with goggles, a snorkel and a mask, and we swim for an hour. Just my warm up includes swimming nearly a quarter mile of back stroke! I never thought that I would become such an avid swimmer after my stroke. This year, the goal Patsy and I have set for me is to compete in a Masters Competitive Swim Meet. Not bad for a 61-year-old stroke survivor!!

This information is provided as a resource to our readers. The tips, products or resources listed have not been reviewed or endorsed by the American Stroke Association.

See also:

Have a Therapeutic Summer

Cruisin' Together


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Stroke Rehabilitation

Making the Best Decisions at Discharge After Stroke

The type of rehabilitation and support systems a survivor receives at discharge can strongly influence health outcomes and recovery. In this, the first part of a two-part series on stroke rehab, we offer guidance for the decision-making process required when it’s time to leave the hospital.

What to Expect from Outpatient Rehab

After stroke, about two-thirds of survivors receive some type of rehabilitation. Outpatient therapy may consist of Several types of therapy. Whether a patient is referred to inpatient or outpatient therapy depends on the level of medical care required.

What to Expect in Stroke Rehab

Following a stroke, about two-thirds of survivors receive some type rehabilitation. In this second of our two-art series, we want to alleviate some of the mystery, fear and anxiety around the inpatient rehab part of the stroke recovery journey.
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AHA-ASA Resources

The Support Network

When faced with challenges recovering from heart disease or stroke, it’s important to have emotional support. That is why we created a network to connect patients and loved ones with others during their journey.

Stroke Family Warmline

The Warmline connects stroke survivors and their families with an ASA team member who can provide support, helpful information or just a listening ear.

Let's Talk About Stroke Patient Information Sheets

Let's Talk About Stroke is a series of downloadable patient information sheets, created by the American Stroke Association, that presents information in a question-and-answer format that's brief, easy to follow and easy to read.

Request Free Stroke Information Packets

Fill out this online form to request free information about a variety of post-stroke topics.

Caregiver Guide to Stroke

The Caregiver Guide to Stroke is meant to help caregivers better navigate the recovery process and the financial and social implications of a stroke.

Tips for Daily Living Library

This volunteer-powered library gathers tips and ideas from stroke survivors, caregivers and healthcare professionals all over the country who’ve created or discovered adaptive and often innovative ways to get things done!

Stroke Support Group Finder

To find a group near you, simply enter your ZIP code and a mile radius. If your initial search does not pull up any groups, try
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Stroke & Parts of the Brain

When Stroke Affects the Parietal Lobe

The parietal lobe helps us make sense of sensory information, like where our bodies and body parts are in space, our sense of touch, and the part of our vision that deals with the location of objects.

When Stroke Affects the Frontal Lobe

Of the four lobes that make up the cerebral cortex, the frontal lobe is the largest. It plays a huge role in many of the functions that make us human — memory, language, movement, judgment, abstract thinking.

When Stroke Affects the Temporal Lobe

The temporal lobe has several functions, mainly involved with memory, perception and language.

When Stroke Affects the Brain Stem

The brain stem serves as a bridge in the nervous system. It sits at the top of the spinal column in the center of the brain. When a stroke happens there, it can cause a few different deficits and, in the most severe cases, can lead to locked-in syndrome.

When Stroke Affects the Thalamus

The thalamus can be thought of as a "relay station," receiving signals from the brain’s outer regions (cerebral cortex), interpreting them, then sending them to other areas of the brain to complete their job.
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Stroke Notes

Stroke-related news you can use about new scientific findings, public policy, programs and resources.

Readers Room

Articles, poems and art submitted by stroke survivors and their loved ones.

Life Is Why

Everyone has a reason to live a longer, healthier life. These stroke survivors, caregivers and others share their 'whys'. We'd love for you to share yours, too!

Everyday Survival

Practical tips and advice for day-to day living after stroke.

Life At The Curb

A unique perspective on survival by comedian and stroke survivor John Kawie.

Simple Cooking

Cooking at home can be a daunting task, but a rewarding one for your diet and lifestyle (and your wallet). Making small changes in your diet is important to your heart health. Here are simple, healthy and affordable recipes and cooking tips.

Support Showcase

Our new department highlighting the good work being done by stroke support groups from around the nation. If you are part of a successful support group we should consider featuring, let us know!