The strength I haven’t yet used … and hope never to

Beaches are a relatively short distance from anywhere in New Zealand

I’m a swimmer.

It’s a strength I work at having in the knowledge that I can draw upon it in the event of an emergency. I would hate to be in a situation, at a beach, lake or swimming pool, where I saw someone in difficulty and felt powerless to do anything. I know I can contribute, I know I have the strength and I know I have the stamina. I hope never to be put to the test.

I learned to swim at about the same time I was learning to walk. I have photographs of me in the paddling pool, howling my eyes out as my big brothers poured buckets of water over me …

As youngsters we swam competitively which required huge parental dedication. We were out early doing our swim training before the sun was up at least three morning a week. The pool we trained in, even though there was one nearby, was about 30km from where we lived.

We were also taught life-saving skills throughout all our years in school. You see, New Zealand is surrounded by water – beaches are never too far from wherever you are and if you are further inland, a lake will only be a stone’s throw. Learning to swim is essential.

The other day at the pool a young man in the next lane stopped me to seek help. I could see that he was struggling a bit … his stroke was awkward and slow. He’d seen me the day before and wanted to ask me something. He explained that he’d recently had a kidney transplant (his wife being the donor) and was trying to build fitness and strength. He wasn’t a native New Zealander and hadn’t learned to swim as a child. He was having difficulty coordinating his breathing and stroking. I did what I could to help wishing at the same time that I’d learned how to teach what comes so naturally to me.  He was very sweet and very appreciative … I really admired his determination, his courage and his wife’s generosity!

I’ve had brief breaks from swimming over the years but always return to the element in which my body feels its best – the water.

My primary aim is to retain fitness and strength and to do as much as I can to keep insulin dependence at bay. I’m lucky I can do that.

In my mind always is the guiding thought that if I had to save a life, I could.

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