Erin's Y story | Yes, she can swim!

What do you like best about the Y?  “I love getting here and cheering others on while I work out.” 

This is straight from Erin…a 35 year old Y member, wife and mom, who joined the Y through the Healthy Living Exercise Program.  She has been confined to a wheel chair due to multiple sclerosis for the past 7 years. 

The first thing that comes to mind when you meet Erin is –wow this is one positive lady.  In fact, it is hard to many people as positive as Erin.  What makes her story special is that Erin was diagnosed with MS when she was 20 years old and attending college.  While some may have turned bitter or resentful, this was not the case with Erin. 

In fact, even now when asked if there is anything she’d change, Erin says “the Lord created me the way I am, and I am what I’m supposed to be.”

As Erin’s illness progressed, her neurologist advised her to stay active in order to maintain the mobility she still has, and initially referred her to the YMCA for the benefits of the pool.  As Erin states, “If I don’t use it, I lose it.”   The Healthy Living Exercise program provided Erin the guidance and support she needed to get started in the pool.   

Erin recounts, “When I first started, I didn’t know my strengths in the pool.  I didn’t know how I’d be able to get in and out of the pool and what would happen once I got in.  I worked with Jennie (Fond du Lac Family YMCA Aquatics and Family Director) and asked her, “Can I swim?”  Jennie told me “You CAN swim.”    Erin explains, “Guess what, she was right…I CAN!”  

From there, Erin also worked with Agnesian’s on-site physical therapist, Joel Mason, who taught her a number of different stretching exercises she could add to her time spent in the water. 

And the pool was just the beginning.  From there Erin learned that her old high school classmate, Josh Mathweg, was one of the Y’s Healthy Living Exercise Program wellness coaches.  Erin knew she wanted to work with Josh and give the machines a try.  Erin calls Josh “her right hand man” and now also works with him in the Life Management Center during the week on strengthening exercises.  

In addition to her improved mobility, Erin has seen an improvement in her mood since coming to the Y.  “Just getting out and seeing people is huge.  It’s helped my emotional health as well as my physical health.  I’m able to get in a workout and know that I have accomplished something.” 

Erin says the one experience that summarizes her overall sentiments about the Y is “getting into the pool and now doing it on my own.  I can transfer myself to the chair that lowers me into the pool.  I can now swim laps and it feels so good to not be on wheels.   In the water, I CAN WALK.  It’s awesome.  And a big thanks for that goes to Jennie, although I don’t want to give her a big head.”

When asked what is the biggest obstacle she has faced?   Erin shares, “the breakup of a long-term relationship.  That was a very difficult hurdle to cross.  The illness was a big hurdle.  But we all have mountains to climb.  It’s how we choose to climb them that matters.  I’ve chosen to climb mine by staying positive.”  

The YMCA is so fortunate to be able to help our members climb their mountains—no matter how big or how small.  And is even more fortunate to have inspiring individuals like Erin remind us of how blessed we are on a daily basis.