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!!
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