Diving Back In the Deep End
Thursday morning Andy shot off the edge of the pool at the whistle, propelling himself forward in a shallow dive. As he surfaced his two arms exited the water simultaneously in his first competi
tive butterfly stroke. To those cheering from the edge of the pool it was shocking to find out he had just learned the stroke 5 days earlier during swim practice with Cunningham's Special Therapy staff. He was a natural, finishing first place in the 25M race!
Rewind to two summers ago when Andy was 12 years old. It was the end of summer and his unit was sneaking in one last swim before the pool was to be shut down for the season. The
boys were playing games in the water, diving for toys, splashing, having fun. This refreshing evening swim ended up being a terrifying scene. Andy had been diving for toys at the bottom of the pool with several other boys, always a solid swimmer, but something happened that night. Andy was under the water too long. He wasn't swimming. The lifeguard dove in and pulled him out of the water. Andy was alive, but terrified following the experience.
At the hospital tests were run, Andy was healthy. He showed no signs of seizure or head trauma. No reason to have lost consciousness in the water was ever diagnosed leaving a lot of questions for a boy who had always felt safe in the water.
Andy's therapist, Jennifer, was one of the first to visit him in the hospital immediately after the incident. His fears vocalized when he told her he would never go into the water again. The pool was shut down by the time Andy returned from his hospital stay. The seasons ahead allowed him to process the traumatic event with Jennifer at a comfortable pace without concerns about whether he should re-enter the pool or not.
As spring approached his concerns began to shift, he wasn't afraid of the water as much anymore but due to traumatic life experiences before coming to Cunningham he had a difficult time trusting adults. Andy needed to trust the adults who would be watching him in the water - staff, and lifeguards. Jennifer assured him that the team of staff would be there, keeping him safe if he chose to swim again. And finally as the pool opened for the season Andy asked Jen if she would take him to the pool to "just walk around the edge." That night's session was spent in the water, Andy and Jen laughing and splashing, Jen's support and assurance helping Andy make peace with the pool.
Andy has replaced his fear of the water with confidence in himself. With continued support from Jen and his Special Therapists as well as encouragement from his swim teammates, Andy now likes to reflect on his recent accomplishments. In the past two IIAA State Swim Meets - Andy has earned 4 first place, and 3 second place ribbons.
Children's names and photos are changed to respect each child's privacy.