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I am a Shaw Method swimmer: Susanna Patel
Susanna Patel had anxieties attached to the water since she was a child, and then she tried lessons with Art of Swimming. Here's her story ...
Tell me about your attitude to the water before you had lessons with Art of Swimming.
I've had a life long fear of water including not being able to put my head under the shower! Even though I loved the sound of it, loved being away on island holidays and the whole idea of being in the water when it actually came down to it I couldn't actually enjoy it because of this fear. It didn't help that I wasn't a great swimmer as a child. Then when I was 16 I was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma, which resulted in the removal of my left tibia and knee.
How did that affect you?
I felt that I wouldn't be able to learn to swim because of the severe muscle wastage in my leg let alone dealing with my own fear of having my face in the water. The years went by when I would dabble with the idea of swimming, but I couldn't manage more than backstroke because I wasn't able to use my left leg.
What happened to change your mind?
Things changed when I had my son five years ago. The last thing that I wanted to do was to pass my fears down to him, so I thought it was now or never.
So you signed up for swimming lessons?
I tried various well known swimming organisations on a one-to-one basis, but to say I was disappointed was an understatement. They never took the time to understand my fear or the issues of having a prosthesis and limited use of my left leg and as a result they just applied the same techniques they used for everyone. My initial obstacle was to overcome the anxiety I had at the thought of putting my face in the water and they offered no support at all. After a week's intensive course I was in the same situation.
Why did you try to give Art of Swimming a try?
It was by sheer luck that I stumbled across AoS and I know it's a cliché, but I have never looked back!
How were the lessons different to what you had tried before?
I've had lessons with Steven Shaw and Joe Detnon. The impact that they have had has been unbelievable. I was hand held through the whole process and at no point did I feel foolish about having issues with the water. They took the time to understand my fears and how I could/couldn't use my leg. And we talked about how we could develop the strokes such that it would work for me.
How long did it take to learn?
It wasn't an easy process to say the least. It took several months before I could actually swim the breaststroke with ease, something that I couldn't even do before I had the operation on my leg.
How is your swimming now?
The best thing about the whole experience is that now I love to go swimming and in fact I really look forward to my lessons each time. My husband and son are so proud of what I've achieved with Joe and Steven's help and so am I. At least now my son sees my diving under the water and loves playing in the water with me so that encourages him to do the same. I can't thank Art of Swimming enough. It sounds so trivial, but when you have had a life long fear and have learned to deal with it, it's a big achievement. I couldn't have done it at all without Steven and Joe. A big thanks to you both from the whole family!
Photo supplied by Susanna Patel