For a diverse group of people who meet every Wednesday morning at Newmarket Leisure Centre’s pool, the chance to swim has been more than just getting some exercise. It has been life changing.
Those attending the Centre’s Swim Referral Group are from across Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, from all walks of life, and are aged 20 to 90.
What they all have in common is that their mobility is in some way limited through accident or illness and they are determined and willing to work hard, with support, to get some of it back.
The group works with instructors Corinne Hurton and Jane Smith and the class provides expertise on what exercises to do in the water, support when participants need it and the chance to meet people in very similar circumstances.
GPs refer patients to the Group for an initial ten week programme but many members continue to attend because they continue to improve.
Instructor Corinne Hurton said: “I see the class as putting people back together again.”
For Shirley Hales, 66, from Newmarket, and Tony Clayton-Smith, 60, from Ely, this has literally been the case.
Three years ago Shirley suffered what she describes as a ‘freak accident’ when as a pedestrian she found herself trapped between her car and another. She broke her leg badly and needed surgery.
She said: “The Swim Referral Group has helped me get back to walking, building my confidence and I can now drive again.”
Transport distribution planner Tony had a motorcycle accident in 2011 and suffered nerve damage down the left side of his body. He was left with multiple fractures of his left shoulder blade and a fractured wrist. He was also diagnosed with severe arthritis of the lumbar spine.
Tony, who works in Fordham, said: “It left me unable to lift my left arm which for a Rugby Union referee like myself was very restricting as anyone who watches rugby will know. I had physio every day and was then referred to the group. For me it is about trying to repair muscle wastage and swimming is one of the best exercises for that. It really takes the pain out of my joints.” Retired Police Officer Stephen Roberts, 58, from Carlton, said: “My GP referred me to the group because I had tendonitis in my leg, I also have neck problems after a car accident many years ago and now I have an Achilles problem.
“When you are injured you can often think I can’t do this or that but seeing people here who are going through different challenges you soon realise you can. The class is very positive and motivating. You get motivation from people in the same position as you or worse.”
Leroy Collin, 60, from Addison Road, Newmarket is in his eighth week of attendance. He was referred by his GP after suffering two falls at home and one while out walking in town.
Leroy, who walks with the aid of a stick, said: “I have no strength in my left leg and it kept causing me to fall. I now have problems with my right leg as it is compensating.
“I’m very sore because I’m using muscles I have not used for a long time. I do walking and water resistance work in the pool and I can definitely feel it working.”
One participant Ian Clayden 67, from Minster Road Haverhill, suffered a catastrophic stroke in 2008 which left him in a wheelchair with the use of only one arm and leg.
After attending the Swim Referral Group he was able to walk his daughter Denise down the aisle on her wedding day in October 2012.
His wife Sandra said: “I cannot find the words to begin to describe what a difference this group has made to my husband and I. It has been life changing for him. We didn’t think that he would ever be able to go in a pool again. ”
The Swim Referral Group was initially funded independently but when this stopped the centre continued to fund the sessions. Participants pay just the normal rate for a swim.
Warren Smyth, CEO of Anglia Community Leisure, said: “The swim referral group is an excellent example of how physical activity can benefit people with health issues. Not only has it improved mobility for participants but has also provided a social network that helps individuals lead happier lives and improve their general wellbeing. I am extremely proud of the efforts our staff put into this work and I know that this is really appreciated by the participants.”
n For more information email Corinne.hurton@ angcomleisure.com