“Look at me momma,” the child exclaimed, his mouth sprawling into a toothy grin. “I’m swimming.” For many patients at the Kluge Children’s Rehabilitation Clinic the simple act of ambulating from their wheelchairs on solid ground is an insurmountable feat, let alone swimming. Thus, any progress made, however remote, can bring about the most indelible feelings of accomplishment.
This week was one riddled with progress. A patient who had previously struggled performing some of the most mundane of tasks was now leading her own exercises, pushing instructor-set benchmarks and exceeding the expectations of us all. While finishing one lap had been laudable last week, the threshold for praise was upended as the patient began strapping on weights and frolicking around the pool like a young Dara Torres.
We were also introduced to a new patient who was afflicted with an illness significantly more debilitating than any others I have ever worked with. Though I cannot personally speak to the taxing effects epilepsy can have on a person’s mental and physical acuity, I must say I admire all who deal with this on a day-to-day basis. Progress would almost immediately be impeded by a onslaught of spontaneous fits and convulsions. This patient required constant support — both physically and mentally — throughout the session but by the end had managed to reach all of his goals for the day.
While I have been fortunate enough to work with children stricken with a wide range of disorders and diseases, of recent, we have experienced a noticeable decline in children enrolling in the Aquatics program: both in- and out-patients. It is unknown whether this stands as a barometer for the precarious state of healthcare in America or less people simply need our assistance. Nevertheless, I hope to continue working with patients as they are not the only ones benefiting from the experience: the reward is mutual.