Paul took to the water right away. This fact was not an assumption we made as parents – Paige never really did learn to swim very well and was not overly fond of swim lessons. Paul loved it and he could do things in the water he could not do on dry land. Standing and walking were easier in the water than they were on land, and he could get around much faster swimming than crawling. It didn’t take long for Kathie to figure out that PT in the water was a good way to get some work in for Paul.
Since we couldn’t get this arrangement through insurance, Kathie arranged to have a PT student work for a modest hourly cash rate with Paul. She somehow got some free pool time at the local warm water pool by scheduling times that lessons were not using the whole pool. It was a magic. He worked harder than ever. Kathie got water orthotics and other water PT stuff, and of course cool trunks, goggles and water shoes. If he didn’t wear shoes, his feet would fold over and he would get nasty scrapes on the top of his feet.
Since Paul loved sports so much, the PT would often have him stand in the water and play catch with a ball. Or throw a ball through uprights, or some other game she would make up. He did his best work in that pool, building strength in his core and flexibility in his legs while playing games. He later took actual swimming lessons and was pretty good. He was probably the best swimmer out of all four of us, he could swim laps using different strokes as he got older to build cardio strength and none of us could do as many as he did. Not that we wanted to – it was great that someone else was in the pool with Paul and not us.
The PTs we worked with were the best people. It all started with Annie and Bailey was the last one, with so many in between I am sorry I can’t name them all. But each was awesome in their own way. As each one would graduate and move on, they would suggest another younger student to work with Paul. Over the years we ended up with a constant string of people that worked with Paul in the water, each bringing their own unique techniques and strengths. I rarely got to watch Paul in the water, because this usually happened while I was at work, but whenever I did get to go with him, I was so proud of him. I don’t think you would know he couldn’t walk until it was time to get out of the pool. He worked very hard and had fun. We even had a drill where he purposely drove his wheelchair into the pool with his clothes on, so he could survive if that ever accidentally happened. It was a piece of cake and we joked about his wheelchair finally getting a good washing.
When Paul had surgeries, the first things he asked the doctor was how soon he could play hockey again, and the second was how soon he could get in the pool again. With surgery scars, it was usually 6 weeks to make sure there was no infection from the pool. He hated that. But when the time was up, he was ready to go again. A lot of life is waiting around, being ready for things to go your way. And when the breaks do go your way, enjoy it and push it hard because you never know what is coming tomorrow. Paul did.