Tuesday, March 8, 2016
"Thank God for Joe Stetz," Jeffrey Spratt, MT said to me in a recent treatment as I shared with him one of my fondest memories from childhood. As I shared my Badger Camp experience I got excited to remember something I saw on Jeffrey's Facebook page. He was on his high school swim team. One of the wonderful things that promotes my healing from childhood paralytic polio and violence is Jeffrey's wonderful story telling during my treatments. It moves the energy in beautiful, mysterious and magical ways.
From my blog Camp Hyannis on 2/28/2011:
"The Badger Swim program is led by world recognized swim coach John Collins Jr. For the past 30 years John Collins has strived and created a world class swim program in Westchester, New York. During that time John has coached 5 world champions, NCAA champions and Olympic atheletes, including Westchester’s Olympic gold medalist Rick Carey. Himself a former Badger swimmer, Indiana University all American Butterflier and American Record holder in the 200 Butterfly. John is currently a member of the United States National Team coaching staff. Pictured above is a photo of end of the year Olympics - a tradition at Badger."
Joe Stetz qualified for the 1964 Swimming Olympic trials but he decided to not pursue his Olympic dreams in order to continue his medical education. I hadn't thought about Joe in years but in 2004 I happened to be reading the Boston Globe and his obituary leaped off of the page. He died in an automobile accident. He was a cardio thoracic surgeon just down the street from me at St. Elizabeth's Hospital. Coincidentally I worked as a social worker at St. Elizabeth's while he was a physician there but our paths never formally crossed. He lived in Lexington, MA. Joe saw something in me at the age of 10 that inside a polio ravaged body that was being abused (although I never dared tell anyone about the abuse) was an Olympic champion.
The summer he was my swimming counselor, he told me that at the end of the summer Olympics at Badger, he wanted me to compete in the butterfly heat. I couldn't believe it. The butterfly stroke is the most difficult stroke but no one else would compete and he told me to have a full and fair race there had to be at least 3 swimmers. He told me to just go out and do the best I could and it didn't matter when I finished; the important thing was I had the courage to take on a race that no one else would. I was terrified to jump off of the starting block and my turns left something to be desired. He coached me one on one and cheered for me as I swam my heart out to finish dead last. But I was able to take my place on the podium and cherished my bronze plaque. Joe instilled in me the heart of a champion and the courage to challenge my body no matter where I finished in a race.
After camp he gave me his address. He was a med student at Downstate Medical School and told me to write to him. He provided me with so much love and support through his letters. I was going through a lot of medical problems and he would explain everything to me in simple language. Those physical letters are long gone but the love from them I carry in my heart.
Last year I wrote to Badger and asked if they had any photos of Joe. They sent me this photo:
He is on the far left; the insanely handsome 21 year old with deep brown eyes and the warmest hugs (said through the eyes of a 10 year old girl who was working so hard to recover from paralytic polio and try to cope with nightly sexual abuse). He was an earth angel sent to me and is with me at the start of every race.
On Saturday I had a really rough run due in part to me not really listening to my body and taking a week off from running after running the Bermuda Half Marathon and the Hyannis 10K. It was also a very blessed one and the love and support of Dana and Will got me through those last two miles!
Yesterday morning, as I do every Monday morning, I headed to the pool at Wave Health and Fitness. I knew that the warm waters and being able to get in a good workout in the pool was just what I needed to shake off that run on Saturday. My knee was feeling almost fully recovered (amazing what regular massage therapy does to help with recovery). After stretching I began my laps. After getting warmed up I decided that I needed to try to swim the butterfly again. I started out breaking down the stroke using a noodle as Joe had done for me all those many years ago and building the stroke first with my arms and then with the kick. I moved aside any doubts or thoughts of limitations and put it all together. I swam about a half a length of the pool doing the butterfly stroke. And then I was like a kid wanting to do it over and over and over again but I was very mindful of taking it one stroke at a time. I did a few more half laps laughing and smiling all the way. Funny how after doing the butterfly, the crawl felt so easy.
I did 70 minutes of laps followed by my strength training routine in the pool. I took my time with stretching and relished the healing power of water.
Before I met Jeffrey in April 2015, I could not find a way to get traction on my healing journey. In December of 2014, I thought my running career was over and thought that I was destined to remain a survivor of paralytic polio and trauma, a patient at Spaulding Rehab and settling for mediocre massage therapy.
But just when I thought my life was over, I met Dr. Ryan Means, a healer chiropractor and then Jeffrey who nourish me, love me, support me and encourage me to allow my journey of healing and transformation to unfold just like the butterfly.
From Feel the Heal: An Anthology of Poems to Heal Your Life available on Amazon:
A New Lease on Life
what God has wrought
let no man put asunder.
Old wallpaper stripped
once a trickle now flows
flickering lamps rewired
no longer dim
light bathes this old house.
sitting on the porch swing
In a moment of unbridled joy
barefoot and free
they become One.
Trembling with excitement
shaking it off
allow yourself to be with a capital B
Being who you were always meant to be
yet time well spent
on tiny legs
grounded to earth’s energy
garnering wisdom along the way
a time of uncertainty
this is the path
abide in darkness
lose grip on grasping