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14 October 2020
Sue Davies daily joins the other “heroes” of the hydro pool as part of her rehabilitation and determination to walk again.
Words Bryce Davies
My lovely wife, Sue, has had some trouble recently with her leg. She was born without a thigh and, during the COVID-19 lockdown, she did not use her prosthetic leg at all. We thought this was a wonderful blessing but it turns out the muscles in her ‘little’ leg have atrophied and she now needs to go to the hydro pool as often as she can to get them moving again. So, most days the lovely Sue and I go to the pool and eventually we have got to know some of the folks who also come on a regular basis.
There is the delightful older lady who gives us the report on the temperature of the pool when we arrive. It’s always a bit too cold for her liking. She bought a thermometer the other day to prove her point. But as she and her buddies gathered around it, none of them could read it without their glasses, so, laughing their heads off, they called me over to see if I could read it. Nope, I’m useless without glasses too. So there were 20 people in this pool and nobody could read a thermometer.
There’s this young guy who comes with his carer. He says, “Hello, how are you going?” to every single person in the pool, and if you catch his eye again, he’ll say, “G’day, how are you going?” for a second time, or a third time, and everyone smiles and says ‘G’day’ back.
There’s the lady who lost her arm in a wheat shredder when she was 11. She has a ‘dodgy’ knee and comes regularly to the pool. She was sharing with me that none of the boys wanted to dance with her when she was a teenager as she was different, but she did end up getting married and now has a family of her own. “So, things can turn out alright sometimes,” she said. I agreed and said, “The lovely Sue is a bit different too; she’s only got one leg but she scored the biggest stud muffin in the whole country.” We both had a good laugh.
There’s the lady with lymphedema, a condition that has resulted in her body retaining large amounts of fluid and fat. She’s so big she struggles to walk. In chatting with her, we met a beautiful, articulate and intelligent woman. She shared that she loves the pool as it is one of the only places where she feels like a normal person. In the pool, she can move and walk without pain or the risk of hurting herself.
There’s the guy who has cerebral palsy and can’t walk or move in the pool without a carer to hold him. His eyes are kind of off-centre and he’s always rolling his head and smiling. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but when he met us and introduced himself, clearly articulating his name and the exact nature of his condition and informing us of the various wheelchair options we perhaps should consider, it became very apparent that he was a very cognisant and socially-nuanced young man. We chat regularly now.
Then there’s the couple whose lives were devastated by a serious motorcycle accident 10 or so years ago. The man was severely injured and cannot walk at all. His wife broke multiple bones and is still dealing with the challenges. She’s a very chatty lady and she shared with me the many health challenges her husband has to deal with, and so she has to deal with too. But a more ‘glass half full’ kind of lady you will never meet. She describes these challenges with good humour and a genuine gratitude for the many positives she still has in her life.
Every morning there are either little kids who wave at us and smile as they get ready for their swimming lessons, or older ladies jumping and jiving to loud disco music as they do their aqua-aerobics. It’s a fabulous place and there’s lots of positive energy there.
There’s a special fellowship in the hydro pool. Everyone we meet has some story to tell of how they are damaged and on the road to recovery. They share vulnerability and are candid about their frailty and struggles. I love going to the pool and catching up with my ‘busted-up’ friends. They never fail to inspire me and remind me to be grateful for every good thing in my life.
In the Bible, God says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians chapter 12, verse 9). The real power of relationships and connection for community is actually vulnerability. When we are humbled by the frailties of our life, our capacity for love and genuine friendship is often tripled.
Major Bryce Davies is a Salvation Army officer (pastor) in Sydney.