Pool dream swimming in happiness

Matthew Busch/The Herald
John Seng, a 65-year-old resident of St. Charles Health Campus in Jasper who has multiple sclerosis, was given the chance to swim in the Jasper Municipal Swimming Pool on Tuesday to realize his Live-A-Dream wish. Seng was able to swim with the help of two certified nursing assistants, Emily Schwindel, clockwise from bottom left, and Reid Heeke, along with the help of two lifeguards who also are CNAs, Allison Rominger and Hannah Fuhs, all of Jasper.

Herald Staff Writer

JASPER — Appropriately attired in new American flag swim trunks with a Dallas Cowboys hat, John Seng couldn’t wait to get in the water.

The St. Charles Health Campus staff accompanying him couldn’t blame the 65-year-old Jasper man, but they had to slather him with sunscreen and buckle him into a life jacket first. He then was carefully lowered into the Jasper Municipal Swimming Pool using a lift chair.

The special outing Tuesday was made possible through the Live-A-Dream program, which is funded by the Trilogy Foundation of the nursing home’s parent company, Trilogy Health Services of Louisville.

“It is so much fun when we get to do stuff like this,” Ann Oeding, activities director, said. The nursing home tries to grant one wish a month.

The program grants wishes to residents much like the Make-A-Wish Foundation does for children with life-threatening medical conditions.

Seng has multiple sclerosis and has very limited movement of his legs. Two certified nursing assistants from St. Charles and two lifeguards, who also happen to be CNAs, made sure he was comfortable and helped him float around the pool.

Matthew Busch/The Herald
St. Charles Health Campus resident John Seng, middle, floated in the Jasper Municipal Swimming Pool on Tuesday as part of his Live-A-Dream wish. He was assisted by certified nursing assistants Emily Schwindel, clockwise from bottom left, Reid Heeke, Allison Rominger and Hannah Fuhs, all of Jasper. Rominger and Fuhs also are certified lifeguards.

Seng, who grew up on Jasper’s south side, and his three brothers frequently went swimming as children, often at the city pool. He also was a Boy Scout and earned the mile swim patch. But he hadn’t been in a pool since 2000.

“He wants us to take our fish pond out and make a swimming pool,” Oeding said, referring to the pond in the center courtyard at the nursing home. “He asks for that repeatedly.”

Gripping a lifeguard’s float and with lots of help, Seng was able to stand up in the water as the buoyancy helped take the weight off his legs. Lifeguards and CNAs carried him on a backboard to the top of the water slide and he rode down with a CNA, though that made him slightly dizzy and he didn’t want to try again.

Seng’s older brother, Lou, 66, was at the pool to watch his brother experience something he hadn’t in a long time.

“I think this is absolutely fantastic,” he said. “It’s been a long, long time since he’s been in a pool. (St. Charles staff members) said they could make it happen and they did.”

Live-A-Dream also has helped nursing home residents attend concerts, ride horses and go to the Dixie Stampede dinner theater in Tennessee.

Matthew Busch/The Herald
With support from lifeguard and certified nursing assistant Allison Rominger, right, and CNA Emily Schwindel, St. Charles Health Campus resident John Seng swam the backstroke alongside CNA Reid Heeke of Jasper, top, Tuesday at Jasper Municipal Swimming Pool.

John Seng had the pool to himself between morning swim lessons that ended at 10:45 and the pool’s regular hours that started at noon. His helpers encouraged him to kick his legs as much as he could and supported him in a short race with a CNA doing a slow backstroke.

Seng had spent about 45 minutes in the water when he decided to get out before the pool opened to the public and filled with children.

“I enjoyed it so much,” he said after he had dried off and changed clothes. “It’s great. I want to come back.”

He recalled jumping off the high dive at the pool, which was removed several years ago for safety and insurance reasons. Though he can’t dive anymore, Seng said he was happy just to be in the water.

“Maybe I can’t come back next week, but next month,” he said. “I want to do it again.”

Contact Alexandra Sondeen at asondeen@dcherald.com.

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