Friday, August 30, 2013

Seven Years Later - Finding My Strength at Spaulding's Aquatics Center

So just about this time seven years ago I hit my bottom. I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I did not know what was wrong with me but Spirit prompted me to google post polio syndrome. I had to start somewhere and I was so blessed that Spaulding Rehab Hospital had a post polio clinic in Framingham. I remember the day I found the courage to pick up the phone and schedule an appointment. I was greeted by an angel who talked with me for 45 minutes about what can happen years after contracting paralytic polio. She sent me a book, a packet of information to fill out and we scheduled my first appointment in October.

I began outpatient therapy at Spaulding Boston since it was right down the street from my office at the VA Outpatient Clinic. I was sent another angel Alison Lamarre Poole, my physical therapist who did not subscribe to the traditional post polio philosophy back then of if you use it you will lose it. She was determined to help me find my strength. The full version of this part of my journey will be shared in my memoir, "Coming Home:A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility." I give thanks to her in my heart every day for the work we did together that gave me the strength to walk away from my 20 year award winning career as a VA social worker to heal my life. In our last session together she said, "You're going to continue to do the work right because you don't want to go back to where you were do you?" I cried as I hugged her and said absolutely not.

It's been quite the journey these past 7 years .... from a wheelchair to the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon, a "relapse" and a return to outpatient care, running with a vengeance and competing in road races and winding my way through a maze of different not so helpful healing modalities.

I took the tour of the new Spaulding Rehab Hospital in Charlestown shortly after the Boston Marathon bombings. It was an opportunity to not only tour the new facility but to reunite with those I had been with at the Mandarin Oriental when the bombings happened. Part of the tour brought us to the new Aquatics Center pictured above. At the time I was practicing yoga 5-6 times/week. Yet something whispered to me to take the information sheets about the community aquatics classes.

Last night I attended my first class led by the vibrant and knowledgeable Diana Fischer, PT, a clinical supervisor for the pool and the spine. She had another PT assist her to demonstrate the exercises and provide verbal support to the group members from the side of the pool. The pool is heated to 90 degrees and after putting on my buoyancy belt, my body embraced being in the heated pool.

We began with a gentle jog and then incorporated sweeping alternating arm movements into the motion for cardiovascular benefits. Coordinating arm movements with walking is a neuromuscular challenge for me but I had a few moments of making the connection. When faced with a challenge, I no longer focus on what I am unable to do but open to knowing that my body has enormous capacity for learning and change as long as I continue to nourish new neuromuscular pathways.

Diana and her assistant provided words of support and encouragement, created an atmosphere of trust and a sense of play and community among the group members while providing education about the functional aspects of the different exercises. They provided cues to ensure safety in the movements.

You can choose from Find Your Aquatic Strength that meets 2 days/week
Core strength in the pool that meets weekly for 45 minutes
They also have Aquatic Therapy for Brain Injury that meets weekly for 6 weeks and Aquatic Therapy for Limb Amputations that meets twice/week for 60 minutes. The classes are only $10/class.

If you need individual sessions, you can get a doctor's order for aquatic therapy which is not needed for community classes.

For more information call Spaulding's Aquatic Center at 617-952-5153 or email

I have come full circle in these past seven years and now look forward to an exciting time of finding and building my strength as I prepare to enter the decade of my sixties on Christmas Day!

Moving Forward from the soon to be released A Celebration of Life. My books of inspirational poetry are available on Amazon

Tethered and tied up to what once was
decades ago
staples, sutures – scar tissue
tenderly released
my form reappears

now training for a 5K
training mind
moving mindfully
retraining body

a surprising bounce in my step
a lightness in my heart
awesome creation
how is this possible?

A beacon of light for others
of what IS possible
once defeated
now defying the odds

trusting in this miracle
moving forward.

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