Memorial Park Natatorium program’s a lifesaver for Jasper woman with severe medical problems
by Jennifer Cohron
Mar 23, 2014 | 1180 views | 0 0 comments | 105 105 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kathleen Grugel walks into the pool at Memorial Park Natatorium. When Grugel attended her first session in February, she had to be wheeled into the water. One month later, she was walking. Daily Mountain Eagle - Jennifer Cohron
Kathleen Grugel walks into the pool at Memorial Park Natatorium. When Grugel attended her first session in February, she had to be wheeled into the water. One month later, she was walking. Daily Mountain Eagle - Jennifer Cohron
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Kathleen Grugel had almost given up hope of walking again when she came to Memorial Park Natatorium in February.

“My doctor recommended it, but it took me a little while to come because I was in such a depressed state,” she said.

As a result of a routine back surgery that went wrong, Grugel has spent the past three years battling congestive heart failure, weight gain, seizures, neuropathy and partial paralysis.

Grugel was completely paralyzed on her left side when she came out of surgery. Just when she was beginning to regain some movement, a bout of pneumonia confined her to a hospital bed for 10 days and she regressed.

Falls have become a routine part of her life.

“In one of my worst falls, I split my head open, and the stitching they did was in the sign of a cross. I said, ‘Maybe God is telling me something,’” Grugel said.

For her first session with Natatorium instructor Lisa Barnett, Grugel had to be wheeled into the water.

Holding tightly to the safety bars and dragging her left leg behind her, she inched her way down the ramp into the pool.

“When she first started walking in the water, I had to hold her down. We held on to each other’s arms and walked step by step. She had to see the left leg in order to move it,” Barnett said.

Grugel visited the Natatorium several times per week and continued her workouts at home on an exercise bike.

Approximately one month after her first visit, she walked into the Natatorium unaided except for the steadying hand of her husband.

The Natatorium staff cheered her every step. Barnett captured the moment on video.

“She had to look at the pictures later, and she said, ‘Was I really doing that?’ We had to film her so she could see what she was doing without me touching her,” Barnett said.

Grugel said although her body is aching when she goes home after each one-hour session, the water soothes her physical pain as well as the mental anguish that almost caused her to miss a miracle.

“If anyone has a medical condition or if they just need to feel good about themselves, they should come here because it’s like family,” Grugel said.