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Swimming with my “Pal” Tem

by Sheryl Jedlinski


I have never been much of a swimmer, but my “Pal” Tem is. A certified aqua arthritis instructor, she badgered me day after day, month after month, until I finally agreed to let her work with me in the pool.

Tem was determined that I would master every stroke, work every muscle in my body, and improve my balance, coordination, flexibility, endurance, and strength. Did she remember that I have Parkinson’s disease and that I don’t like to put my head underwater? Oh, she knew, but she wasn’t going to let these issues get in the way of meeting our goals.

Tem immediately had me buy goggles so I would not only put my head underwater, but also keep my eyes open. Next came hand paddles and fins. I may not be an Olympic swimmer, but I am starting to look the part when sitting on the edge of the pool.

As you may have already figured out, Tem is no Mrs. Chips. When I swallow water, start choking and gasping for air, Tem yells, “Don’t stop, don’t stop, you are almost there!” Meanwhile, others ask if they should call for help. Tem waves them off, saying that as soon as I got my normal color back I would finish my laps.

“You won’t drown,” Tem assures me. “I have a life saving certificate.”

“That speaks to your ability, not your motivation,” I answer. “You would have to want to save me, which you wouldn’t be inclined to do unless you believed I was giving 110%.”

Sheryl and Tem

Tough as Tem is, I would not now be swimming half a mile twice a week without her coaching. Affirming the phenomenal progress I have made, others have taken to calling me “the little mermaid.” Never has my athletic ability in any area received such praise. Swimming has even helped me regain a more positive self image, as in the water no one sees my awkward gait, and I can appear graceful. Most importantly is that our time together in the pool has become our special time, where we bear our souls to each other. I can never begin to repay my Parkinson’s pal for all she has done for me on so many levels.

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