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Adult Learn-to-Swim / Human Interest

Life-Changing and Life-Saving Skills

Adult Learn-to-Swim Success Stories: The Student, Part 3

Mari Soliman | March 2, 2017

I consider myself a free spirit. I love exploration, freedom, and change. I’ve never liked feeling restrained, and not knowing how to swim was keeping me caged. I wanted to just jump in the water without my fears tying me down. So several months ago, I decided to reach my lifelong dream of learning to swim.

I took classes and was finally able to swim across a pool. I felt invincible and strong. What I didn’t know was that just a week after my last class, swimming was going to test and prove my emotional strength, as well.

On the same day I finished my swimming classes, I traveled to the Dominican Republic for a family reunion. It was the first time I had visited my family in 10 years. Everything was amazing. But one day, all that happiness almost turned to tragedy.

We had traveled to an area with several waterfalls. My family split into three groups. The elderly and the small children stayed in the shallowest waterfall; my daughter and niece, who are strong swimmers, went to the highest point; and I decided to test my swimming in the middle. We all were jumping from each fall into the pristine water below.

I was so excited! I was wearing a life jacket, and I brought my goggles so I could see it all. I was having a blast with my four nieces. They had me jump first since I was so eager to show my skills. As I was about to do my fifth turn, I saw one of my nieces shouting. I thought she was laughing, but then I realized there was panic in her eyes.

I looked around and realized the youngest, who is 15 years old, was face down in the water. The guide and I ran to her, and when he lifted her up, she was having a seizure. My niece had never had a seizure before, so I was momentarily in shock.

The other girls started screaming for help. I ran for a medic. But then it hit me—we were in the middle of the jungle! I had to keep my cool for the girls who were frozen with fear. It was up to our guide, another man who came upon us, and me to get my niece out of there. It was like a movie—the two men carried my niece down the length of the river, and I kept the other girls with me as I backstroked myself all of the nearly 50 meters back to the entrance.

Thankfully, we got back safely, and my niece got medical attention. She’s doing fine. But that moment was truly defining for me. If I hadn’t learned how to swim, I wouldn’t have been there to help her get to safety. They say everything happens for a reason. Learning how to swim was a magical experience of independence for me, but I also learned how swimming is a valuable, life-saving skill everyone should know.

Read the rest of the story.

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About the Author—Mari Soliman

Mari Soliman is a middle-school science teacher and mother in South Florida.
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