In this guest post, Dr Donald L Paine shares his personal story of overcoming a terrible accident that left him with a shattered pelvis and his incredibly inspiring road to recovery through swimming.
When I was a teenager my father threw me into the water on cape cod and told me to move my hands and feet and that is “swimming”. I swam for years without knowing the first thing about breathing, coordinating hands and feet but splashing around and having fun. I also swam for years never knowing until just before my dad died that he had learned to swim when the sergeant through him into the Mediterranean Sea as all service men had to learn to swim before the hit the beaches of Normandy in what we today call D-Day.
In April of 2015 Simons Rock in Great Barrington MA sponsored a free learn to swim event for residents (over 60 which I was) at their swim center, “Fitzpatrick Athletic Center”.
I began to learn that enjoying something is increased when you know how to do it, regardless what it is. I love exercising and jogging in fact am the chaplain to the NYC Marathon and have done that race 28 of the last 30 years. But I learned that when you cannot do one thing you can learn a new thing and equally enjoy it!
On Father’s Day while walking to get into my car, which was parked off the road, I was struck by a motorist who was out of control of his car. My pelvis was severed, pelvic ring fractured, sacrum fractured and multiple other less tragic injuries. I had little feeling in either leg and was not able to walk for 5 months. During this time I learned lots of things: I learned that when in the water up to my neck I could only put 10% of weight on my left foot so, I began to swim.
Surprising what you do for movement when you cannot walk. I began to swim, and learn more and more how to enjoy swimming. I went from swimming 30 laps in an hour to presently swimming 60 laps per hour. I went form struggling to stay afloat to moving gracefully through out the water.
I am by no means a professional swimmer but I have learned to be proficient in the “enjoyment and exercise of swimming”. I have just begun to jog again but I know my parts that are so thankful for the role swimming in my recuperation will always be thankful and continue to enjoy what I learned to enjoy when it was all I could do to keep my head above the proverbial water and recovering my life.
Today I typically four times a week do 60-70 laps in an Olympic size pool. I swim out free style all the time but vary the return lap from backstroke alternating arms and legs, backstroke simultaneously using arms and legs, side stroke left and right, then breast stroke. In short blocks of 10, 5 free style out and 5 returns in varying styles. I have just discovered MySwimPro, and it’s been really helpful to me.
What kept me motivated during my recovery is feeling that swimming was a “breath of hope” into my tragic accident. If I could swim I knew in time I could get my life back. In life, “shit happens by accident, shifts happen by choice” when we find something that we choose to make our goal as we aim at recovery. Swimming helped me to do what I would tell everyone they need to do (using whatever helps them to find it: nurture positivity, cultivate optimism, embrace hope, face fears, and expand faith that can move mountains of adversity and tsunami’s of accidents into a place of recovery and reclaiming life.
The other is to surround yourself with people who love and care for you, challenging you not babying you, and supporting you through the hard and difficult days with the tenacity and courage of presence.
Swimming is what you do to not fight against waves of adversity but swim through adversity with ever-increased strength and courageous confidence.
Swimming is a gem that I discovered in the minefield of adversity. I enjoy it.
There was one time not too long ago that I found myself in the water at the beach in which my father had thrown me in years ago. I was doing a back stroke looking up into the wonderful blue sky with a few white clouds and I said, “Thank you Dad for tossing me into the waters that day so long ago.
I have learned to relax into the waters of life and feel carried along to new heights and greater appreciation of Faith, hope and love.
A Gold Medal Moment can be any goal you wish to achieve. It’s something that you work towards everyday. It’s diverse, attainable and unique to the individual who will benefit most from its accomplishment.
This concept is not limited to purely athletic endeavors. It could be anything from improving your best time or losing weight. There is no limit to what you can achieve, and I strongly believe that everyone has a milestone worth sharing. These moments are timeless, they challenge boundaries, and most importantly they push our perspective of what we think is possible!