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With growing confidence, Beth filled her time with the school newspaper, homework, volunteering, clubs, Raptors, and another high school musical. She also decided to get back in the pool as soon as the doctor’s ban ended.
Towards the end of Beth’s sophomore year of high school, she was free to go to Green Springs for physical therapy once instead of twice after school.
“Laraine said that when therapy gets in the way of life, then it is time to move on,” Beth explained.
The last physical therapy session, almost two years post-injury, ended with the anticipated rite of passage. The final test: while Beth dramatically finished her last pushup, she pushed off her favorite therapist who was leaning on her back. Laraine dramatically stepped away. Everyone clapped. A sad and happy moment, the end of an era, though we would continue to meet Laraine and her students in Toledo every few months.
“I continued physical therapy as an outpatient for two years,” Beth said. “Three times a week at first then going to twice and then once a week, we drove to St. Francis after school to workout for about two hours. Recently I ‘graduated’ from physical therapy since I get plenty of exercise on my own now and since I always am extremely busy.”
At another seminar for physical therapy students, Beth enthusiastically shared a milestone. Leaning back in her wheelchair, she took an elastic band off her wrist and held it in her teeth. She used both hands and arms to scoot forward in the chair and then lean back. From that position, she reclaimed the elastic with the one finger she could move. Her smile wavered a moment as she concentrated on intricate degrees of progress.
When the second loop secured a messy ponytail, she took a bow with a flourish and a ta-dah!
Sweet 16 on her April birthday, Beth returned to the water. A physical therapy student, Colleen, offered to help at the University of Toledo pool on a Saturday. After observing the usual floating with arms waving underwater, Colleen, a college swimmer, provided advice and a hand of support under her back while Beth rotated her arms, one at a time. Next, they tried circling both arms together, causing her head to dip under water.
None of it came naturally. Beth had water safety lessons as a toddler, but had never been a swimmer before the accident. With the first wheelchair games a week away, we met Colleen a second time. They focused on the traditional, alternating backstroke, taxing muscles and stamina. For the first time, she could swim the backstroke—awkward and faltering.
Beth slept through the hour ride home, dreaming.
Here’s Beth's video on how she puts her hair up:
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