St Albans cerebral palsy sufferer gets a helping hand

Cerebral palsy sufferer buoyant after learning to swim unaided for first time.

A HEARTWARMING tale of tenacity and close friendship has emerged from a St Albans care company where a senior carer has helped a man with cerebral palsy learn to swim unsupported for the first time.

But, physical hurdles aside, Ciaran Kiely has just one more potential obstacle to keep in the back of his mind as he manoeuvres across the pool – if he giggles he will sink.

When 23-year-old Cieran from St Albans goes about his daily life, he depends totally upon his electric wheelchair and hoists.

But according to Andy Court, a senior carer from at-home care provider Home Instead Senior Care in St Albans: “The water gives him a sense of freedom he doesn’t have and the fact he has freedom in the water is very important to him.”

Ciaran had been enjoying hydrotherapy sessions for several years at Keech Hospice when Andy began accompanying him to the pool.

Quickly realising he had the potential to achieve more independence in the water Andy, a trained nurse, set about applying a more constructive approach based on his own swimming experience.

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Cerebral palsy causes motor function malfunction and swimming is a positive therapy for sufferers, as water provides relief from muscle stiffness and pain.

Initially, Ciaran had been kept buoyant with special long, flexible flotation aids which supported him, particularly around the upper part of his body.

The key to giving him the confidence to try swimming unaided depended on finding the most suitable and comfortable position in which he could reach the other side of the pool.

The carer spends a couple of lengthy periods with Ciaran during the week and was able to build a trusting relationship.

Andy explained: “Part of it is that Ciaran and I have a good relationship so it’s a confidence thing. So we decided the easiest and best position for him, and quite quickly he gained confidence.”

Andy suggested that instead of relying on the buoyancy aids that Ciaran supported himself on his carer. As Ciaran gradually gained confidence Andy’s support was not needed.

But it is a “delicate balance” and Ciaran is aware that his ability to go across the width of the pool depends on him lying on his back, with his head back, to stop sinking.

Andy said: “He kicks his legs as best he can and uses his hands. He can do three or four widths of the pool self-supported, with little help from a carer. You have to be fairly close by because it’s a delicate balance.

“If he gets the giggles, he sinks.”

Andy praised Ciaran for his “significant achievement” and added: “He is a young man who enjoys life.”