Stroking Through Water Aerobics

Scissor Kicks Make a Splash

I felt weightless as I scuttled to the edge of the pool. With my speech at a new, slow cadence that I had trouble getting used to, I explained to the water aerobics teacher that I had a stroke.

So, if I was a little slow with the lunges, twists, and v-kicks, that was why. She assured me that the class is perfect for rehabilitation and total body strengthening.

On any Monday and Wednesday at nine o’clock in the morning, you would catch me standing in four feet of water with a bunch of ladies in one-piece swimsuits. Was water aerobics that alluring that I found myself in a class at the exact time my colleagues were getting to the office? What would they say if they saw me? Probably something encouraging, like “Brava, girl. Go get ‘em!”

Ever since I had the stroke, family, friends, and colleagues cheered me on. The accident happened while driving on an interstate highway at 65-miles per hour with my 86-year-old mother in the passenger seat. When she saw I wasn’t reacting to several questions, my mother snapped her fingers in front of my face. Still no reaction.

“Pull over! Bonni, pull over!” she said. As our car sped along on a swerving trajectory, I looked down at my hand in the console. It was shaking. My mother panicked. With her arm flailing out of the passenger-side window to let cars know she was in trouble, my mother grabbed the steering wheel hard to the right. We crashed into a guard rail.

After two months in three hospitals, an entire day of reviewing Rules of the Road in occupational therapy, and six-hours of driver’s ed with an instructor, I was finally able to drive again.

On the water aerobic days, I was proud to be driving myself to the gym. I changed, walked slowly onto the pool deck, and eased myself in to the shallow end. The water was always warm. I appreciated these simple moments, like the uplifting feeling of my slack muscles getting stronger.

Do you have a new appreciation for life?” people often ask me. “Yes, I do,” I answer.

The stroke has empowered me with a new sense of self. I rather feel as if I’m two people. My inner consciousness acknowledges how good it is to be in the water as my outer physical being does the exercises. Often, they are at odds, not working together as smoothly as they did before the stroke.

Almost every day, I feel stroke-y, as if anyone can tell by the way I’m talking and walking that I had the stroke. But I am here for Round Two, a new journey of determination, focus, perseverance, and resolve. It will take renewed tenacity to keep my recovery going for a lifetime. This confidence and optimism help open the channels for my renaissance, and the inertia of “no,” or negativity, is quelled.

I watch myself from the upstairs window of the gym that overlooks the swimming pool. I can see this middle-aged woman in a black maillot and a new fancy swimming cap. The loud disco music used for aqua aerobics bounces off the tiled walls. The woman is trying hard to create resistance in the water as she does the lateral arm lifts, jumping jacks, and scissor kicks. The woman is smiling. Every time she gets in the water, she thinks about how she is doing something for her body and soul.

The woman feels a sense of self-assurance and direction. She is on the road to recovery from this thing in her brain that struck her down near exit 11 on an interstate highway.

Author of POUND RIDGE PAST, Stroke Survivor memoirist, HuffPost contributor, and “Bonni Brodnick Blog” -ger (bonnibrodnick.com)

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