Member, Gary Marsh, shares his experiences of life with MS and what KMSTC means to…
For Liz Haddaway, enjoying a swim at the beach has always felt like a thing other people do. Haunted by awful memories of school swimming lessons, Liz has avoided the water at all costs ever since.
“Because I couldn’t swim at all, I couldn’t begin to keep up with the rest of the class, so they would leave me to it while they enjoyed their swim. Over the years my anxiety about the water grew into something I just couldn’t get past.” Liz tried swimming lessons at the public baths, but the idea of going prone in the water would leave her feeling a complete wreck. When her daughters were old enough, Liz made sure they had lessons and became confident swimmers, explaining, “the thought that I couldn’t jump in to rescue them if they got into trouble was just awful. I had to make sure they could swim, even if I couldn’t.”
Liz joined KMSTC in 2015 upon the recommendation of one of the Centre’s Trustees, Richard Curzon, whom she knows through her local church. “I was diagnosed with MS 17 years ago, but I am fortunate enough that I have been able to continue my career as a Social Worker. I come to the Centre as often as I can from Maidstone for Oxygen Therapy, and one day I saw an advert for one to one swimming lessons with the Centre’s pool instructor Chris Betts, and I thought I would give it one last try!”
The hydrotherapy pool at the Centre is described by many as an oasis of calm, offering a warm, supportive environment to take exercise, relax stiff muscles, work on flexibility and build muscle strength. In addition to hydrotherapy, one-to-one lessons and family swims are also available to members and their family. “I took a REALLY long time to feel comfortable in the water. Chris has the patience of a saint! He would gently tow me round the pool so I could get used to the sensation of weightlessness. Relaxing enough to sink back into the water and allow myself to float took a lot of gentle encouragement. Chris never made me feel pressurised to do anything and his nurturing approach reassured me that he would catch me.”
“Getting enough exercise can be a real challenge for people living with MS. The warm water of the pool at KMSTC provides support, relaxes muscles and relieves the effort of staying balanced. And now I can finally enjoy it!
“With Chris’ help I can honestly say I’m now a swimmer! I still lack confidence and I certainly don’t expect to be tearing up and down the lanes at my local public baths, but my muscle memory is improving, and my coordination gets a little better with every visit.”
“I’m tremendously grateful to Chris. He never lets you feel a failure, even if you chicken out of trying something. And, do you know what? This August I’m going on a cruise and I’m actually going to pack my swimming costume!”
The Centre’s Hydrotherapy Pool is fully wheelchair friendly, with a hoist to help you get in and out of the water safely. To book an appointment for hydrotherapy, swimming lessons or a family swim, please call reception on 01227 470876.