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MAC Schedule: August 7, 2022

Marla's Amazing Journey

Marla WeinbergAfter sustaining a rare and complex spinal cord injury in August 2013, I had a barrage of 12 doctors in 6 states having a field day with my case. They offered little hope for recovery, few options for pain control and surgical options that were high risk for paralysis. As an engineer, I was convinced that with no change in the pain or symptoms in 10 months, I would be dealing with permanent damage. I was in a very dark space of “no hope, no cure, and no life.” By February 2014 I decided to do a “Hail Mary Pass”. I got my courage up to go to the MAC aquatics class at 9:00AM every day. I spoke with the instructors and explained my unique circumstances. They were welcoming and kept an extra eye on me to make sure I was OK. I was afraid to be in the water by myself. Not being an athletic person, I was embarrassed about the way I looked and my condition. It was like being the new kid walking into a new school in the middle of the year (AAAUUGH). Very quickly though, I got to know folks in the class and learned that almost everyone was facing some challenge whether joint issues, fibromyalgia, diabetes, MS, stroke etc.. Everyone encourages each other to come to class. Even if it is a bad day, they still come. When a 94-year old man who fought in WWII can get into the pool every day, you know you have no excuses. At three months I had my first signs of improvement. At six months I started reducing my dosage of pain medicine. After eighteen months in the deep water section the nerve damage is almost fully healed and I am off all pain medications. I am able to work and travel as I did before my life went sideways. My doctors are stunned.

Marla Weinberg 2I do most of my exercises between 6 and 10 feet of depth. I found the deeper I could stand, the more progress I made. Oxygen moves into cells with more efficiency at greater depth due to the water pressure and it forces deeper breathing, which given my teeny-weenie lung capacity, was an added bonus that I never managed to do above water. A day at a time I could not tell any difference, so I would just try not to think about it and only note changes every 5 -6 weeks. Damage in the central nervous system and spinal cord takes a long time to heal and there are no guarantees it will ever heal. It is easy to want to give up because there can be no noticeable difference for such long stretches and then there are step-change moments (I had many boo-hoo self pity sessions in between, but it's hard to tell you're crying in the pool - so it worked out well :) ). Normal physical therapy, typical 3X a week won't make a dent. While it still took months and months of effort, it was a small price to pay to get my life back. Having the morning & evening MAC aquatics group was my lifesaver. They kept me going. It has really been life changing.

Marla Weinberg 3Whether you just want to improve your general health or whether you are facing a major obstacle, water can make a difference. It was a game changer for me. Come visit and sit on the pool benches, watch a water class, meet the “Pool Posse” or join in and make a splash. You do what your comfortable doing at a pace that works for you. There are no final exams. There is always someone to lend a hand. Tiny changes can add up to small miracles.

Marla Weinberg
Engineering Fellow
International Paper Technology Division

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