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Seizures Took Away Her Love of the Water. Here's How She Got It Back.

There are few moments in our lives where we feel like a “typical” family. Most often, the differences are glaring and obvious. When your daughter comes with more medical and therapy equipment than the latest “abilities” catalogue (or simply the fact that you know a catalogue of medical equipment called “abilities” exists), it’s almost impossible to feel like the family that can just get in the car and go.

One of the few times we’ve felt typical is in the water.

Our daughter Finn took to the water like a mermaid, and we enjoyed feeding that love. We took her as often as possible and even had a tiny pool in our house we would let her splash in when she was tiny.

Three summers ago, that changed.

Once again, seizures stole from our daughter and our family. After a particularly rough, seizure-filled summer, Finn was scared of the water. She lost her swimming abilities, and fear almost paralyzed her.

She spent the whole of last year in level two swimming lessons — three sessions of “turtle” lessons where she mostly sat on the side of pool and clung to the stair railing. This year, I held little hope of anything different.

I should know better.

This year, Finn had a fantastic swimming instructor. He’d filled in with her class last year and remembered her name. Last year, Finn only spoke around four times during lessons — four times out of six weeks of lessons. Every day for 30 minutes, she looked down and got fully submerged in the water less than four times. But he remembered her name. He got down to her level. He spoke quietly to her and didn’t make her look him in the eye. He encouraged her.

She spoke. She never stopped talking. We had to tell her several times to be quiet so the other students could hear the instructor. She got in the water. Fully in the water. Dunked her head… in the water! Her instructor worked with her personal care attendant (PCA) and helped her practice her skills outside of class. She spent running through the drills.

Her daddy and I could not believe her progress. We sat on the bleachers with the other parents and watched our daughter do the same things all the other kids were doing. Sometimes, she was even more advanced. Our girl was going above and beyond.

We got to be “normal” parents. That’s an amazing gift. Precious and rare.

This year, Finn passed her swimming lessons. She’s a shark (and we all know that when you’re a Shark, you’re a Shark all the way!). Her instructor still checks on her, notices things like a new missing tooth. He listens to the same stories over and over, and he never reminds her that he’s heard this one before. He never rushes her through. He never reminds her (or us) that she’s different from all the other kids. He never treats us like we’re parents to a different child.

To him, she is Finn.

To us, he’s an answered prayer, an opportunity to be ordinary and mundane… to blend in… to breathe.

And Finn? Finn dove. She went off the diving board. She learned to swim underwater. She got back her love of the water. She’s our mermaid again.

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