had a stroke almost 20 years ago that paralyzed
my right side. Before the stroke, I was
independent and owned a retail store. After the
stroke, I had to take a less demanding job with
less responsibility for less pay — not what I
I discovered Stable Strides Farm therapeutic horseback
riding. Learning to ride a horse did great things for my
self-esteem, balance and muscle strength. Besides riding
for exercise, I compete in disability horseback riding and
have earned several ribbons and trophies.
Two years ago, I started doing therapy in the
swimming pool with physical therapist and former
swim coach, Patsy Shropshire. She asked me if I knew
how to swim. Of course I knew how to swim, but what
could I do now with one arm and one functioning leg?
Patsy replied, “Let me think.” Before long she had me
doing the back stroke with a life jacket and then with
no life jacket. Next, Patsy asked if I could tread water;
“Why not!” I said. It was not long before Patsy had me
doing everything, even putting my head under water and
swimming a short distance. Five months in, I was able to
dive into the pool and swim laps.
In 2015, Patsy decided to teach me how to snorkel in
the swimming pool. Last summer, we were able to take a
trip to Balmorhea State Park in Texas. It is a “lake” with
steps so you can safely enter the water. Snorkeling in the
lake, I was able to see different fish, turtles and things
growing under the water. It was awesome!
Now Patsy and I go to the YMCA twice a week (my Y
does not charge physical therapists to work with members
in the water) with goggles, a snorkel and a mask, and we
swim for an hour. Just my warm up includes swimming
nearly a quarter mile of back stroke! I never thought that
I would become such an avid swimmer after my stroke.
This year, the goal Patsy and I have set for me is to
compete in a Masters Competitive Swim Meet. Not bad
for a 61-year-old stroke survivor!!
Learning to swim again
By Tracy Virant, Survivor | Dallas, Texas
Survivor Tracy Virant with swim coach/therapist Patsy Shropshire
efresh & Retreat Stroke Camps are a
three-day weekend experience available
to stroke families at camps and retreat
centers across the country. A range of
activities are available — some therapeutic,
some just for fun and relaxation, some just for
caregivers — at different locations throughout
the country. All activities are overseen by
therapists and doctors. For a list of upcoming
camps, visit their website.
STROKE FAMILIES HAVING FUN