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Examiner
  • Diane Mack: Sometimes Mom needs to be tossed in the deep end

  • I cannot believe it has been almost 30 years since I walked into Kelsey’s public school in North Carolina.  It was parents’ day and we, the parents, were invited to see what our special needs child had accomplished.

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  • I cannot believe it has been almost 30 years since I walked into Kelsey’s public school in North Carolina.  It was parents’ day and we, the parents, were invited to see what our special needs child had accomplished. 
    This particular day was swim day.
    Kelsey was almost 8 years old, at the time.  When Kelsey’s teacher reported that Kelsey had learned to swim, I laughed. 
    Kelsey has cerebral palsy.  She could not walk and was afraid of the water.  With all of her other medical conditions, it was impossible to even think that Kelsey could swim.
    However, swim day arrived, and many anxious parents entered the school swim facility.
    I looked for Kelsey when I arrived.  There she was, sitting on a bleacher in her blue bathing suit, with her blonde hair in a pony tail and wearing her glasses. She was so excited to see me.
    This is an added blessing to having a special needs child.  Kelsey is, and was, always excited to see everyone, especially family.
    Anyway, a teacher took the megaphone and welcomed the families.  The teacher then announced the swimmers’ names prior to each swimmer diving in the pool.  Soon enough it was Kelsey’s turn and I was a nervous wreck. 
    I watched two swim coaches, lift Kelsey and carefully walk her, holding both of her hands.  They were about to help her into the deep end, when I thought, “Have they lost their minds?  She won’t be able to put her feet down.  It’s too deep.”
    Kelsey was smiling, ready to swim, and her feet were already in kicking motion.
    And sure enough, Kelsey was dropped in the pool. I gasped.
    After what seemed like a lifetime, Kelsey popped up from the deep water and started kicking and moving her body forward. She kept her face under the water, wiggling her body as fast as she could.  Kelsey was going to swim the length of the pool.
    I kept looking at Kelsey’s instructor, who was screaming, “Go, Kelsey, go!”
    And Kelsey kept going, swimming in a manner I had never seen before.  Her head would pop out of the water, and she’d laugh, gulp water, and immerse her face again.  She was focused on her other instructor at the opposite end of the pool.
    I could not believe my very special needs daughter was going to swim, the entire length of the pool. It was unimaginable.
    I ran to the shallow end and when Kelsey’s face popped up, I grabbed her and hugged her, telling her how proud I was of her.
    Kelsey knew how to swim.  
    Well, I had a repeat of my successful swimmer’s history this past Friday.  Our local YMCA has a class called “Challenger Swim Lessons.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Kelsey has been attending this class for six months and she loves it.  She enjoys swimming. But the special attention of this class – and the great teachers – was just what she needed. The water is the best therapy, for her CP and orthopedic needs.
    Normally, Kelsey attends the class with her staff. However, this past Friday was my turn.
    And there Kelsey was, bobbing in the water and practicing her strokes with her swim instructor.  Kelsey was excited to see me and show her skill.
    She showed me that she could swim without her face in the water.
    Kelsey is 30 years past North Carolina and her first swimming performance.
    However, her smiley faced, happy, innocent, loving nature, has not changed. Kelsey’s pride of accomplishment is expressed in the same manner, her sheer delight.  Kelsey’s willingness to do everything that is asked of her has not diminished.
    She is determined.  She is hopeful. 
    Kelsey is my teacher. 
     
    Diane Mack is coordinator of Putting Families First, Jackson County’s Family Week Foundation. Email her at jacksoncountyfamilyweek@yahoo.com or visit   www.jacksoncountyfamilyweek.org.
     

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