Prior to becoming Paralysed I spent a lot of time in the pool as it was very good for my lymphoedema. I was never a good swimmer, just a bit of breast stroke, however freestyle, backstroke and butterfly somehow eluded me!!! I could never get the breathing right. However walking in a pool and water aerobics I loved, my Lymphoedema always responded very well plus it was great exercise and on hot days in Australia it was the best place to be. During my treatment for Radiation induced Lumbar Plexopathy my physio sessions would be an hour on land and an hour in the water, this was when I was trying to regain mobility before I lost all the use of my legs. My time in the water was always great, I could do many things I could not do on the land but as I got out of the water I would feel my legs weakening, they would wobble and I would have to grab my two walking sticks for help.
It is now nearly a year since I became paralysed and the last time I was in a pool was the end of 2014. The new apartment where we live now is like a resort, with an outdoor and indoor pool and two gyms. I watch the people in the outdoor pool from my window and I am very jealous especially on a hot day. The indoor pool has a seat that will allow me to be swung into the pool but due to other health issues I had to put this off, plus in the winter it was to cold. At last I felt ready to give this a go but I had no idea what my legs would do in the water or how my whole body would respond. Via a friend I found out about a Buoyancy Belt used to help paraplegics in the water. I also had a noodle to hold on to, I was taking no chances on sinking!!! I needed at least one other person with me to “drive” the pool chair and then, someone in the water to help if I needed it.
As it turned out I needed someone to help me get into the pool area too as the doors all had very high handles, to make them child proof, they were also wheelchair proof!! I managed to transfer from my wheelchair to the pool chair and put a strap around my waist so as not to fall. I had the Buoyancy belt on and held the noodle ready to go when I hit the water.. Well surprise, surprise as I was lowered into the water my legs started to float up into my chest, I had no control. My numb legs had not felt the cold water but as it reached my tummy it felt very cold. I could feel myself starting to panic and not breath properly, the Buoyancy Belt the cold water and floating legs all felt like they were pressing into my chest. My friend Annie in the water said I went white!! Adam my husband was “driving” the chair so he had to stop and let me get my breath back and relax. However after this hitch I managed to get into the water, with Annie’s help, I was still trying to get my legs to do the right thing but they had a life of their own!! Gradually as I started to relax I was able to push my legs down and start to do a bicycle motion with them. This was very exciting as I could actually get them to move in circles. I worked hard at pushing them down to the bottom of the pool. I was able to do some stretches of my Quads which get very tight from sitting in the WC all the time. I held onto the side while Annie stretched my legs out so I was laying flat in the water. It felt so good to have that movement and to loosen the muscles. After that I was able to tread water down the length if the pool and back using my arms like doggy paddle. I loved it, I felt so happy, it felt so good to have that freedom in the water.
Tomorrow I am going to have another go and try to get from the pool chair into the water without help. This would be good as Adam could then take me himself and I would not have to have another person with me. This would allow me to get in the pool more often as I think it is very good for my circulation plus always good to help the lymphatics. One strange thing that happened was the whole time I was in the water I felt like I was sitting on something!! The nerves in my backside got a very confused phantom sensation, afterwards the nerves in my legs went a little crazy too like they were over stimulated.
My goal is to get better and better at this as like always the water makes me feel free. I did not sink but I did not really swim either but it was fun!! There is room for improvement…
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