Lift helps Digby man take first swim in 17 years

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier
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Jay Kennington took his first swim in 17 years at the Digby pool last week thanks to the special lift installed two years ago.

Jay, 25, wasn’t so sure when his mother Mary, caregiver Susanne Gidney and pool staff asked him to sit in the white swing, or when they first lowered him into the cool pool water.

He relaxed some as he floated around in his personal floatation device.

But when his mother jumped in after him, the joy on his face was unmistakeable. His eyes widened, a big grin flashed across his face and he slapped the water over and over.

Jay had a stroke when he was nine, then a grand mal seizure. He needs help to walk and to do most anything.

His mother and caregiver take him for regular walks (in his wheelchair) with his dog, Jay’s been bowling and even fishing. He’s been wading on the lakeshore but he hasn’t truly been in the water since he was eight years old.

Charlotte Frankland is a recreation therapist at Digby General Hospital. It was her idea to try the lift.

“That’s my job; to help people and their families find activities they like,” she said while paddling round the shallow end with Jay. “That means trying out different things, helping them get used to it, helping them feel comfortable.”

Swimming she says is great for people physically  - the resistance of the water turns every motion into exercise and it helps stretch muscles. But the physical aspect is only one side of the story. She says just getting some patients out of the house where they can interact with other people, have social contact, get some fresh air does wonders.

And she says it’s important for families to have activities where they can relax and just enjoy each other’s company, to develop a relationship outside the roles of caregiver and patient.

“Swimming is just one example. It could be anything where they can have fun and they can just be mother and son.”

Organizations: Digby General Hospital

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Recent comments

  • David Schmidt
    March 18, 2014 - 13:37

    it's nice to see jay again ,boy does he ever look like Rick .

  • Mary
    September 06, 2011 - 09:01

    What a terrific, inspirational story! To all those involved I say a huge Congrats on a job well done. It's awesome that there are people working so hard and using all the resources available to help people with disabilties live a full life. To all those involved you have my respect and admiration! Keep up the great work!!!