OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES

Dancing with a Russian Dissident

Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)

Nancy Blose

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." Eleanor Roosevelt

Now successfully relocated to Grand Cayman (see previous blog I Ran Away), we traded in our long pants, boots, and mittens for a much simpler attire of shorts and shirts – shoes were optional.

PTA On the Beach

No longer committed to day jobs, Bill and I dove into our new retirement without hesitation and volunteered to be co–presidents of Kelly and Kurt's school's PTA (Parent-Teacher Association) at Faulkner Academy. A bit ambitious considering that neither of us had ever served on a PTA committee or even attended a PTA meeting. Our inexperience was offset by our enthusiasm. Besides, there was probably little resemblance between the two organizations. Our meetings took place on the beach with cocktails!

New Friends

This volunteer opportunity opened the door to meeting new friends and establish a social life. One such friend is Shelley, who was also on the PTA, and who also had two children attending the same school. In Shelley's condominium complex there were several timeshare units. Dr. Igor Burdenko had one of those units for two weeks every December.

Dr. Igor Burdenko

Dr. Burdenko was a former Soviet Union Olympic Trainer when he defected to the United States in 1975. He developed a world renown aquatic rehabilitation, conditioning, and training program. Some may recall the 1994 Winter Olympics when Tonya Harding's boyfriend attempted to destroy Nancy Kerrigan's figure skating career by smashing her knee with a lead pipe. Igor was the therapist who rehabilitated Nancy's knee in less than six weeks when she won the silver medal in women's figure skating.

Water Therapy

Shelley's unharnessed energy and determination makes me look meek and passive in comparison. She made it her personal mission to persuade Igor to develop a rehabilitation program for another Nancy – ME! It was arranged for me to have a private six day, eight hours a day rehabilitation program with Dr. Igor Burdenko using his innovated water therapy.

Wearing a wetsuit?

Igor's therapy included a custom designed flotation wetsuit which would prevent me from sinking, an important consideration when in the water. Putting on a wetsuit as an able-body requires a lot of wiggling and jiggling with simultaneous pulling and jumping. If you were observing me getting stuffed into this flotation device, it would have provided much laughter and entertainment resembling something in the "I Love Lucy" style.

Range of Motion

Once I was appropriately dressed, I was transferred from my wheelchair to the pool with a lift. This process resembled Shamu, a SeaWorld whale, being hoisted from a tank to a pool for performances. Igor would start with range of motion (ROM) using the water for minimum resistance in an almost gravity free environment, to manipulate the stretching of my legs.

Swimming or Floundering

Next I attempted to swim my version of the Australian backstroke, which strongly resembled a distressed swimmer in the process of drowning. This must be why Igor supplied me with the failed proof flotation device. I only spastically swam several feet in what felt like an eternity. At the conclusion of aquatic training I was rewarded with a waltz.

Dancing

Dr. Burdenko would elevate my vertical body into in a standing position, placing my feet on top of his and firmly hold me upright. And the waltz would begin. Finally, my sixth grade ballroom dance classes were going to become useful. I doubt this is how my mother had visualized their use – dancing with a Russian Dissident in Grand Cayman, paralyzed.

Standing Tall

There was no need for music, I heard the trumpets announce the start of our dance when I was raised to a standing position. I was 5'6” tall again! I was eye to eye with my dance partner. I was no longer looking up like a child from the seat of my wheelchair.

No Longer Paralyzed

Each step was placed with deliberate emphasis and I could feel it radiate up my legs. Each swirl could be felt as the water movement caused resistance around my trunk and shoulders. Our bodies worked as one as we twirled around the shallow end of the pool. The sun was beaming on my face, I was no longer restrained in my wheelchair, I was no longer restrained by paralysis. I was dancing. I was dancing with a Russian Dissident.

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