I took a water exercise class today, the first since the one I taught in Boynton Beach some nine months ago. I came out of the pool 4,000 steps richer, with two rings closed on my Apple watch, a new friend, AND a connection to a potential new vascular surgeon when I’m discharged from Shands.
That’s the power of water.
When I my arterial aneurysm ruptured in Amsterdam on May 5, I’d been teaching water fitness for a decade. I made it out of the OLVG Hospital ICU due in large measure to my strength going in. Although ICU-Induced Weakness sapped that strength along with and more than a quarter of my weight by the time I graduated from the ICU to the Gastroenterology Unit, my muscle memory and years of exercise routine were on my side. It was a slow slog nonetheless — ain’t nothin’ easy about physical therapy — but my amazing nurses and physiotherapists had me standing and even walking by the time we flew home.
There was no pool at OLVG, and I longed to be supported by water. I visualized floating as I endeavored to relax in my hospital bed, finding the trigger that is challenging to land on when you’ve been lying there forever. Water worked.
When we returned home in August, I was using a walker and a cane. My therapy at FYZICAL focussed on my lower half, and I made progress. By the end of August, I began working on my core and arms and legs — and floating for real — in our community pool. As my upper body strength returned, I started swimming, eventually lifting my arms out of the water in a pretty good freestyle. My goal was to sail up Victoria’s three flights of stairs when I had my update at Shands on November 8.
Which I did. No walker. No cane. Just me.
In the water, I could walk, then jog, then run. I could shovel heaps of waves. I could box. I knew that every movement I did caused me to burn 150% of the calories the same movement would take on land, due to water’s resistance, but that I’d be supported by bouyancy. Water is win, win.
About a month ago, my husband and I joined a gym. It was a home-coming of sorts — we met at the New York Health and Racquet Club on Manhattan’s Upper East Side 40+ years ago and we have been gym members for most of our married life. We got out of that habit when I taught classes in Boynton Beach most days.
Another silver lining — my illness and recuperation has reconnected both of us to getting healthy. We’re now LA Fitness members.
I decided that Christmas Eve was a perfect time to return to a water exercise class. I knew there was one at 9 on Tuesdays, though there was no music and teacher didn’t thrill me; I’d swum a few times during class (there is a free lane) and felt no pull to return to teaching or to be bossy about how the teacher was doing her job. Good.
So, surprise surprise when today’s class was taught by a sub with music and the same training and teaching approach that I received through the Aquatic Exercise Association. Great class. Oh, and her husband is a vascular surgeon, so she knows how unusual — miraculous, really — it is for me to have recovered as I have.
So, on this eve of a miracle birth, I am once again reminded to be grateful. To have, as my writer colleague Karen Coody Cooper wrote in today’s Palm Beach Post, not an excess of food or drink or debt but an abundance of friendships and love and kindness and contemplation.
To experience Christmas as a holy day. And water as a holy sacrament.
Merry Christmas Eve, everyone.