I grew up in the Wood River Valley, a strong and agile teenager. One summer night in 1977, just a few months before my 17th birthday, a combination of poor decision making, alcohol and a motorcycle, lead to a drastic change in the way that I would end up living the rest of my life. I had broken my neck. Doctors fused my C5 vertebra. I spent the first two weeks in a Stryker bed with little sensation and only minimal movement in my upper torso and no use of my hands. The third week I was placed in a halo cast and the fourth week I was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital. It took 4 months to learn how to make my body function again, get out of the wheelchair and re-enter my high school life, walking with crutches.
I finished high school and obtained an associate’s degree at The College of Southern Idaho. I have spent the last 30 years helping to raise my three children and working at Power Engineers, Inc.
I believe that each individual has the option to contribute to the grand scheme of life. There is no one correct answer for everybody and if you keep an open mind there is something to be learned from everyone. To the extent possible, I try to stay above the line and pay it forward with the intention that people will return the favor to someone else in the future.
Strive to improve and never turn down an opportunity because of the fear of failing!
I often think of myself as having two lives. One as an athletic, independent, impatient, hardworking and fun loving walking person to a quadriplegic who had to learn patience, dependence and how to laugh again. I learned very early on after my injury that I wanted nothing more than to mother my children, love my husband, adapt to a new way of running my business and to find new ways to enjoy my friends and family and the great outdoors.
As a C6-C7 quadriplegic I had limited options. Or so I thought. I soon found that I could still dance from my wheelchair, kayak with my husband, listen and guide my children, design interiors of homes and run a furniture and design firm here in Ketchum, Id. and have endless adventures both good and bad with many wonderful friends. But most importantly I learned to try anything and if it didn’t work the first time, change it up a bit and try again. Growing up in Manhattan Beach California, we surfed, body surfed, swam, and enjoyed anything to do with the ocean or water.
Getting into the water again was the most frightening and the most exhilerating thing I had done yet in my second life. The water gives me the freedom to move. It equalizes the injustice of my dissability. I explore the sea, I swim forever in the cold water of Redfish Lake, I throw myself from the kayak to swim with the porpoise… anything to get into the water.
Now through the Aquability program I am gaining more strength, learning new strokes, making new friends and always with a smile. I try to always be positive, listen to others and keep focused on the beauty of today.
I may never become another Johnny Weismuller or even Buster Crab, but through AquAbility’s Karen Morrison, the “task master”, my swimming ability has improved greatly. Karen takes people with an assortment of disabilities and through fun, hard work and laughter, transforms us into a group of energetic tadpoles doing freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, pushing, pulling, kicking, using fins, paddles, pulling parachutes, and the list goes on. Karen takes us through these various exercises using special techniques depending on our individual needs. Yes, this is serious business, but I take it with laughter and fun. I have become a much better swimmer, but more importantly, I find myself with greater range of motion, increased strength and conditioning, losing extra weight, and a newborn confidence in myself in and out of the pool.
You will never know what lurks around the next bend of the road unless you release yourself from the grip of a disability that paralyzes and hinders you from following your personal journey of life.
Life is not a game. It is about enjoying life while trying to do the best you can!
*** I am sorry to say that Mac passed away after his Parkinson’s progressed. We will miss his quick wit and great smile, no matter what. ~ Karen
I moved to Ketchum in 1984. I was an avid skier, hockeyplayer, played tennis, hiked, played college lacrosse, enjoyed mountain biking, and was an all-around athlete. I got married in 1998, and have 2 sons, aged 9 and 11.
I was diagnosed with colon cancer after birth of my second son 9 years ago. Upon completing my chemo and surgery for cancer treatment, I received more bad news – I was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease.
As the Parkinson’s progresses, I have had to give up or alter my sports and workouts that mean so much to me. I now enjoy swimming, riding my tricycle, hiking on flat trails, using the Alter G treadmill, taking balance class, and strength training. Exercising means so much to me and helps me feel better.
Karen and I played hockey on the same team back in 1997 before my Parkinson’s. After I began swimming at Zenergy a year ago, Karen asked me to swim with the Masters group and I tentatively started going to the practices. They were much better then I, but they were all so nice and I loved the swimming.
When Karen started Aquability I wanted to participate. It is a program that is specific to my needs. I swim with AquAbility twice a week & I look very forward to it, and get a great workout. It’s not an easy class whether you are a wounded warrior or a paraplegic, have MS or Parkinson’s. It is definitely a challenge and helps me to work on my balance, coordination, and my cardio fitness.
Karen is great coach. She treats us all individually. Karen challenges us and of course encourages us too! I even swam in a local swim meet! I just started it so its too soon tell on my improvement but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t improve my swimming ability and my state of mind!