YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo

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Capital Campaign Phase III - Lori's Story

Priceless Pool Time

IMAGINE yourself a seemingly healthy, new, young professional, a computer analyzer - living the life of independence and self-sufficiency through an active life-style, full with friends and long-term goals. You're at a sporting event, rooting your favorite team for the win, when suddenly, out of nowhere, the lights go out. For three months. And when they come back on, you're not the person you used to be.

That's where Lori Beach's story starts, February 1, 1997, when she suffered two back-to-back brain aneurysms at a K Wings hockey game. It changed the course of her life, forever. Twelve weeks in a coma, and years of limited physical therapy later, it's a life that has required her to learn all over how to talk, how to move, how to walk and how to find her own groove, dependent on others, and dealing with her limitations that are further compounded by constant, chronic pain "a pain that is present 24/7 - except for when she's in the pool.

"I step in to the water and my pain melts away. It disappears."

Enter The Y.
"I haven't missed a swim (session) in 18 years," Lori says, with a thankful, exuberant smile. (She's been using the Y pool ever since the early days of her health crisis.) She participates in the Silver Sneakers® Splash class, which serves as her only physical therapy to work on balance, flexibility, range of motion, muscular strength and very mild cardiovascular.

And while the splash class has had significant positive impact on her ability to move her body and limbs into the positions she needs them to be in to do very basic things, there's an even larger benefit:

"I step in to the water and my pain melts away. It disappears," Lori said. She dramatically takes a deep breath and closes her eyes to demonstrate the state of calmness and peace the effect of swimming has on her. Then, to prove her steadfast, twice-a-week pool routine, she pulls out her colorless, faded swimsuit from her duffel bag (she says she's gone through dozens) as evidence of her many hours in the Y waters.

"But I do need help getting it on," she says, of the swimsuit. Not fully independent and needing help, Lori talks openly about her limitations. She can't read. She can't cook. She can't drive. And for these things, she needs help. That's when her face further softens with a tenderness she reserves for what she calls her "extended Y family."

"After I had the aneurisms," Lori said, I lost all my friends. "They didn't know how to deal with my issues... But of course, I have to deal with them all the time." Her dad became her primary care provider, and did so for many years, but when he died three years ago, it set her back both functionally and financially. That's when several Y members that had gotten to know Lori stepped up to provide a special support group for her. Like, finding swimsuits for her at Goodwill. Every week, especially during the pot-luck events, various members take turns cooking extra quantities to send meals home with Lori. They take her on Y sponsored bus trips to get her out of the house. And her Y scholarship allows her to use the pool, when otherwise, she would not be able to afford those two hours a week of no pain.

"That one hour in the pool - it's priceless," Lori said. "And I don't know what I'd do without the friends I've made at the Y. They look out for me. When I step in through the doors at the Y, I don't have handicaps. I'm accepted for who I am. I am Lori."