Let Me Swim by Ismail Nabeel, M.D.
I hail from a country where swimming is for the privileged and we a l t h y.
You long for someone influential to give you a pass to the swimming pool.
You have to trust your reliable insider within the five star hotel to tell what is the
right time to try your luck, sneak in and swim in that exclusive pool for a while.
THE OLD STE RN W H E E LE R
Minnesota Masters Swimming News � Volume 31, Number One, Spring 2005
You might be wondering about the beautiful sunny beaches along the coast line. Well the
truth is the beaches are black due to the spilled oil. The government is unable to save
any thing as it costs too much for clean up services and bureaucracy work and support
the oil companies to do more business with the country and fill in the reserves.
I am 26 years old and never learned to swim. It was always a dream for me to learn how to
swim. How to paddle in the water forward?
My foremost fear was of drowning. What if I couldn�t make it to the edge of the pool and
get out. Finding the pool was another dilemma. Moving to Minnesota gave me an experience
of a lifetime. I was given the opportunity to let go of my innermost fear and plunge
myself into the pool which back home was only for the wealthy and privileged. The apartment
complex where I now live has not one but two pools. For someone who didn�t have
access to a pool back home, it was like winning the lottery.
I remembered the day perfectly. It was little breezy, but the sun was out, glowing and
shinny. I touched the cool water and felt that this is the day to let go of all my inhibitions.
The sign at the corner of the pool displaying 3 feet deep only and then little boys and girls
waddling through the water gave me some courage to step into the pool. It was an
experience I will never forget. I enjoyed every bit of that 3 foot pool. I looked odd sitting in
3 foot pool on my edge while the rest of adults were swimming in the deeper part of
the pool at about 6-7 feet. I mustered all my courage and tried my luck to move a bit forward
into the 6 foot area. I was about to panic and cry out for help as I was floating in the
water and unable to touch the bottom at all.
I struggled hard to reach my cozy comfortable place at 3 foot pool. People around me
laughed at my antics but I had nothing to say to them. That was me trying, trying to just
learn �how to swim�. I wondered at that point would I ever be able to swim. I would die with
this anguish burning for ever.
I was not going to give in to the challenge that easily. I was determining to go forward.
Mustering all my courage, on 2nd day in the pool I got some help from floating devices.
I was able to float this time. I contemplated to move forward in the deeper waters and
again the same thing happened. I panicked
I was short of breath, ready to scream out
loud for help. Some body grabbed me by
my arm and took me to the shallow waters.
He took a good look at my face and with an
amusing smile he stated �don�t even bother,
bro, swimming is not of you.�
I started practicing hand movements in the
shallow waters. They call it �crawl,� �butterfly,�
�freestyle,� �breaststroke.� I didn�t know
what I was trying to do. I was just trying to
move myself and float in the shallow water.
As long as my feet we re on the floor I was fairly
confident that I will swim some day. I slowly
started to crawl but it was too difficult for me.
I was easily getting short of breath. It was
hard for me to keep up with my breath. If I
was moving my hands, my feet weren�t
moving. I had to keep all the movements of
the body in sync. I search the internet to find
out the better strokes. How many strokes are
there? There is an interesting site to explore
and watch the pros in action both underwater
and above the water real time videos at
There were few other things beside floating
devices I would carry to the pool. My favorite
device was the snorkel. It is a reliable tool that
used to help me float and assist with my out
of sync breathing problems for crawl stroke.
Then I started doing back crawl, as a series of
strokes helped me propel in the water while
keeping my head above the water. The next
was the �Breast Stroke�, the easy and effective
stroke that helps me maintain good
breathing cycles. It is an on-going struggle.
There is a long way to go.
I can now complete a length of the 50mm pool
in 2 minutes. I am still last of the lot of all the
good and accomplished swimmers out there
but I am proud of one thing. I am now swimming.
And nobody can keep me out of the pool.
* Dr. Nabeel is a resident physician in the
Dept. of Occupational & Environmental
Medicine at Regions Hospital in St. Paul. He
grew up in North Nazimabad, Karachi,
Pakistan before moving to the United
Published in the Minnesota swim newsletter.
some things to cherish and celebrate life for