Embracing Freedom: Swimming with SMA

As someone with spinal muscular atrophy, swimming has always held a special place in my heart.

Swimming has been my escape

Ever since I was a child, being in an electric wheelchair, I was immensely thankful that my parents introduced me to swimming. It became my escape, a place where I felt free and independent, able to walk and swim in the water on my own, moving my legs and body in new ways.

As I grew older and faced challenges, including my spinal fusion, I had to adapt, but swimming remains one of my favorite activities to this day. Let me take you through my personal journey of swimming with SMA, the adaptive techniques I've embraced, and the pure joy it brings.

Able to forget my physical limitations

When I first discovered swimming, it was like unlocking a whole new world. In the water, I felt weightless, and being in my wheelchair was no longer my only time of freedom. My arms and legs worked together, and I loved the freedom of gliding through the water. It was my time to forget about my physical limitations and embrace the sheer delight of movement.

Finding adaptations to keep on swimming

As I grew older, I faced new challenges due to my condition, especially after my spinal fusion. The fear of losing this cherished activity lingered in my mind. However, I was determined not to let my disability define me or dictate what I could enjoy. With the right adaptations, I found that swimming was still accessible and enjoyable.

Having supportive floaties in the pool made all the difference. These floaties provided the buoyancy I needed, allowing me to move with greater ease and confidence. They became my best friends in the water, supporting me as I continued to embrace the joy of swimming and staying close to my friends.

When I was younger simple arm floaties worked best. As I’ve gotten older and have lost more neck and trunk support I find flat mats to be a great option for me to float on my own, however, nothing beats just being carried by my friend or caregiver in the water as you feel weightless and free.

Swimming also proved to be therapeutic, providing relief for my muscles and joints. The water's buoyancy eased the pressure on my body, making movement less taxing. Engaging in water-based exercises helped improve my strength and flexibility, contributing to my overall well-being.

Many pools have accessibility equipment

Inclusive opportunities for swimming have expanded in recent years, and that warms my heart. Many public pools and facilities now offer accessible entry points and equipment, breaking down barriers and making swimming a more welcoming activity for individuals with disabilities like SMA. This inclusivity has opened up new doors for our community, allowing us to fully participate in water-based activities alongside our peers.

Swimmings lets me play with my children

One of my favorite parts about swimming is being able to play with my kids in the pool. They love when mom gets out of her wheelchair and they are able to be close to me without my large bulky wheelchair between us.

Swimming has been an integral part of my life with SMA, offering me freedom, joy, and therapeutic benefits. It's a journey of adapting, overcoming, and embracing the beauty of the water.

If you’ve never tried getting in the pool, lake, or ocean I really couldn’t recommend it more.

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