A road traffic collision victim who was unable to walk without crutches has made an almost total recovery thanks to the power of water - despite the fact she can’t swim.
Social worker Susan Mukengezi was left with a compressed fracture of the spine when a car mowed her down as she was walking near her home in Barnet at the beginning of the year. The 49-year-old was told by doctors that swimming or cycling could help her regain mobility after the incident, which also left her with a torn ligament and knee wound.
Susan, who has never learnt to swim, was struggling until her neighbour and class instructor Gul Kizrak convinced her to try Aqua Zumba at The Venue in Borehamwood. The class is offered through our award-winning We Move, She Moves programme for women and girls. Six months later, the mother-of-one has lost more than 17 kg and is almost pain-free. Watch a short film about her story below.
Susan said: “I have had a second lease of life. It makes me feel good. When I went for the first class I walked in with crutches and managed to get myself in the swimming pool, but I couldn’t get out!
“Within three weeks, I wasn’t using crutches and I was able to limp. I didn’t know water could do so much for somebody.”
Susan, who at one point regularly attended five aqua classes a day, admits she was scared of being in the water at first.
She said: “It took a lot of convincing for me. In that first class, Gul told me to stay at the front – the pool tilts so that at the front it’s 1.1 metres and at the back it’s 1.3m.
“Now I am a lot more confident. The water comes up to my neck. It makes you work more.”
She added that though she has returned to work for the London Borough of Haringey, she’s still hoping to keep up her exercise regime - and she’s managed to convince some friends to join her.
She said: “One comes with me from Barnet, another travels from Walthamstow. The classes make such a difference. I wouldn’t know how to use a gym. It’s amazing that Hertsmere offers these classes. I would say to anyone, even if you can’t swim, come and give it a try.”
As well as helping speed up her recovery, there have been other physical and mental health benefits.
She added: “It’s so easy to be complacent. You put on a bit of weight and you don’t do anything about it. Before I started the classes, I was an 18 or 20 dress size. Now, I’m 12 or 14 on my top.
“It’s also a social thing. I have learnt a lot. What it’s done for me, it’s given me more self-esteem. It’s really changed how I walk and the way I feel. My confidence has increased.”
Councillor Caroline Clapper, Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Culture and Health said: “Susan’s is a remarkable story of how a terrible incident can actually lead to some positive life changes.
“She is an inspiration to anyone who is struggling with any kind of condition, whether short or long-term.
“The benefits of exercise to your health and wellbeing, both physical and mental, are well-documented, but Susan is a living, breathing, walking example.
“I hope more women take the opportunity to try one of the many classes we offer through We Move, She Moves.”
Aqua Zumba classes are held at The Venue, Elstree Way from 7.30pm until 8.30pm on Tuesdays and at the Furzefield Leisure Centre in Potters Bar from 9.30am until 10.30am on Thursdays, term-time only.
Posted on Thursday 10th October 2019