Let's go back 7 months. Charlie is a new member at the Neosho Y. I am the Aquatics Director here, asn as I get ready to start My H2O Combo class, I see Charlie walk through the locker room doors. Charlie is a big guy. I'd say 6'3 maybe taller. He a very broad man, with a white mustache and dark tanned skin. My first though was this guy must have been a football player. As he walks towards the pool slowly, he looks unsure, and maybe feeling a little overwhelmed. He gets closer and very quietly says, "do you mind if i join your class?" At this point I am trying to hold in my excitment because it is not very often that I get newbies who want to try my class. It is the hardest out of all the water fitness classes. Before I could answer a flood of thoughts started running through my head. "Should I take it easy on the class today? I don't want to scare him off. Should I push them harder? Will he come back?" As I finally make my way back to reality, i realize that I have created a couple of seconds of awkward silence. I finally say "Absolutely" and proceed to introduce myself and describe the class to him.
Fast Forward, an hour later and Charlie has completed his first water fitness class. Then, next class two days later. Charlie walks in with a slight limp, and a little slower. He says he's sore, but loved the class and is ready to get at it again. I can see that Charlie has a lot of determination, and likes to push himself to get the most out of his workout, but I can also see that he's out of shape, and is struggling. As time passes Charlie becomes a familiar face. He starts talking more, becoming more engaged not only to me, but the other members in the class. I see a completely different Charlie in just a couple months. Not so shy and quiet , a little more outgoing and that's when I start to hear his story.
Charlie is a Military Veteran who served in Vietnam. During his years in the service had taken a gunshot wound to the hip, and never fully recovered. He seemed hesistant and reluctgant to talk about his past, so I didn't push it. Days pass, and Charlie approaches me. Something was off, he wasn't himself. He then tells me that he hasn't lost any weight since he has been coming to class, and he had also started weight lifting in the gym. He asked for suggestion, and all I could do was encourage him to keep going. I told him slow progress wasstill progress, I thought he was doing great and to just give it more time. All the while hoping that the positive encouragement was all he needed. We've all been there...
Not long after our conversation Charlie tells me that he will not be in next class. He quietly says that he has an appointment at the VA. I ask him if everything is ok, and he says yes, just a checkup. So I wish him luck and tell him I will see him in a few days. Charlie, the quiet and reserved new guy has now become that member, that friend, and now the person who enocurages others to keep going. A few days later in walks Charlie. He smiles, says good morning to everyone, and then turns to me and whispers, "Lisa, I lost 22 pounds. Not only that, they took me off one of my diabetic prescriptions , and also stopped my high blood pressure medicine!" At this point, I find it hard to contain my excitment for him. I am so proud of him, and tell him this news is just what I needed to hear!
A couple of months pass, and I start our 100 Mile Swim Club. While looking at the participants who signed up, I noticed Charlies name. Logic tells me that I have at least a year before I need to order shirts for the participants who complete the 100 miles, but to my suprise after only two months I see that Charlie is already at 45 miles! I create a leaderboard to display in our Y, and Charlie is in second place. Once he saw this, we all noticed a friendly competition going on between Charlie and the member in first place. Days later, I'm sitting in my office when a lifegaurd summons me to the pool. As I walk in, the lifegaurd says"hey did you know Charlie is going to try to swim 5 miles today?" All I could do was gasp, because in my 5 years here, I have never had a swimmer complete 5 miles in one day. I tell her to keep a close eye on him, keep me updated and call me when he is on his last lap. 4 1/2 hours later, the lifegaurd waves me to the pool. I knew he had to be close... As he is finishing his final lap, the lifegaurd and I wait at the end of the lap lane. He comes up out of water, and we clap and cheer. As he stands up, he seems shaky, his face pale with exhaustion and mutters the words " I DID IT" We wait for him to catch his breath and we tell him how extrmely proud we are of him. He looked up and said " I did it because of you Lisa. You pushed me, encouraged me to keep going and I couldn't have done it without you and thisY". At that moment I had to walk away as my eyes filled with tears. He had just accomplished something that he never thought he could do.
I have since learned through conversation with Charlie that not only is he a diabetic with high blood pressure, but he also suffers from PTSD. As he told me his story, I saw this man, with all of these issues that has overcome so much. He has been taken off of one of his diabetic prescriptions,has been taken off of his high blood pressure medicine, and HE HAS STOPPED TAKING MEDICINE FOR HIS PTSD. When I asked him why, he said "because I was tired of being tired, I was tired of feeling like a zombie, and now thanks to you, the pool, and this Y I feel like I don't need it. I feel better when I push myself to come in and work out, and I enjoy the company here.
Charlie has made such an improvement on his mental and physical health. The YMCA has changed his life and made an incredible impact on him, but he has also made an impact on us. He is an inspiration to us all.
SO WHO IS YOUR CHARLIE?
Written by Lisa Sedillos, Aquatics Director