Chris and Deborah's story
Even in the toughest of situations, Chris DeSylvester and Deborah Titchenal manage to see the bright side. Both have Multiple Sclerosis, a disease of the nervous system that affects the brain and spine. Chris has been living with MS for 10 years, Deborah for 13. They are part of The J’s Multiple Sclerosis Aquatics class, which meets three times a week and is endorsed by the Multiple Sclerosis Society.The exercise is certainly important, but so is the friendship and laughter they share each week.
“Everyone in this program has MS of different magnitudes,” Chris says. “Some can walk just fine, others use walkers and canes. Our class is like a quilt- -everyone brings their own squares. They say humor is the best medicine. Before you know it, we’re all laughing and the class is over.”
This close knit class has given participants a wonderful opportunity to bond and form a support system for one another. And it starts even before they get in the water. “Even on our bad days, we make an effort to get here,” Chris says. “Seeing other people going through the same thing you’re going through is motivating. We support each other with courage both mentally and physically.” Deborah, who uses a walker, says she is able to walk down the hall and use the elevator thanks to the strengthening exercises she does in class.
“Without the class I would be more limited,” she says. “I feel motivated to push myself more and even though I am tired after class, I feel like I have accomplished something by being there.”
“In addition to our MS Aquatics class, we also offer other specialized aquatics classes like Arthritis Water Exercise and programs for children with special needs,” Aquatics Director Lyle Reed says. “Through our American Red Cross certified swim lessons, aquatics personal training, lap swimming, water exercise classes, outdoor pool and spray ground, the Aquatics Department is able to serve thousands of people in our community every year, and that number continues to grow.”
MS Aquatics instructor Joani Huber, who is a retired aquatics therapist with the Veteran’s Administration Hospital, says the motivation and support in this class are what makes it a very special experience at The J.
“Everyone is always looking out for one another,” she says. “If one person doesn’t come to class, someone else will call him or her to make sure everything is okay. And when new people join the class, the other participants just open their arms and bring that person right into the circle. It’s just a very special and nurturing community that we have here at The J.”