Getting off the edge of the swimming pool and heading for the deep end might not seem like a challenge for some, but for Donald Jobe, leaving the safety and security of the side was a major milestone in his journey following a massive stroke at age 33. Jobe, who has impaired speech, epilepsy and paralysis on his right side as a result of the stroke, credits an NCH Wellness Center exercise class for getting him on the path to independence.
Jobe enrolled in Aqua MS, a 10-week water exercise course designed for people who have multiple sclerosis. The twice-a-week class helps build balance, strength, coordination and flexibility. For Jobe, who spent the past six years using a wheelchair and walking with a cane, attending the classes at the Wellness Center was a life changer.
“I decided to take Aqua MS to add something different to my self-rehabilitation workouts at the Wellness Center,” Jobe says. “At first, my wife helped me into the water using the stairs; previously I would be lowered into the water by a lift. The instructors helped me use the ledge of the pool and become accustomed to being in the water.” It was a huge first step in gaining independence. Jobe, who suffered his stroke in 2011, had spent years in weekly physical, occupational and speech therapy classes. But being in the pool was a whole different world.
“After a few weeks, I didn’t need help getting into the pool and I realized I could let go of the ledge,” Jobe says. “The instructors taught me how to float and I was able to navigate to deeper ends of the pool and do exercises myself. “When floating, I was able to kick at the surface using both legs with no assistance,” he says. “I discovered my weaker leg gained more strength and range of motion.”
Katherine Daum, aquatics coordinator at the Wellness Center, was stunned at Jobe’s progress. “I have seen a lot of success stories, but nothing like this,” she says. “He is 100 percent independent in the water. You would never have guessed he used a cane or was diagnosed with paralysis.” Water offers buoyancy for the attendees who are diagnosed with MS, Daum says.
“In the pool, there is less effort needed for them to achieve a greater range of motion,” she says. “The water soothes a lot of muscles that are constantly sore and the hydrostatic pressure on their body builds strength in their organs and lungs.” The 45 minutes that Jobe spent in the water during each class also boosted his mental health. “Being in the water was soothing and reduced my anxiety stemming from the trauma,” he says. “This improved my mood, quality of life, and affected my home life in a positive way.”
If someone in the community with MS is considering NCH’s Aqua MS class, Daum recommends bringing their caregiver to the first class. The class is about more than exercise, as attendees support each other and discuss life with MS.