‘He’s Fallen in the Water!’

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by John Connor |

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Any British comedy aficionados among you will know “He’s fallen in the water” is the most famous of all the innumerable catchphrases of “The Goon Show.” That show was the root of Monty Python and every bit of the new wave of comedy that swept through our country. And it still dominates today.

That’s enough of the JC comedy lecture. You can ask me for a private one behind the bike sheds after school. I like to hang with the cool smoking kids — knowing that this sporty geek is likely to outlive them! It will also give me a raison d’être to actually be there.

So, yes, I’ve finally been able to get into my pool. Those pesky jet streams have finally curled up for a bit over Blighty, and the weather over the weekend was glorious. It was so glorious that it normally would have turned me into a puddle at 90 F (or if I really have to go modern, 32 C).

swimming pool \ Multiple Sclerosis News Today \ Columnist John Connor's wheelchair sits next to his swimming pool at his London home, in front of a mechanical lift he uses to transport himself into the pool

The mechanics. (Photo by Jane Davies)

Instead, I got into the pool. When I write “I got into the pool,” it wasn’t that simple. My wife, Jane, and son, George, heroically went through a series of hoisting endeavors to get me in. And once I was in, they had to make sure I didn’t drown. By the second day, I wouldn’t have blamed them if they had let me!

The fact that I’m still here to write this shows that they are definitely on the kind side.

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By Sunday, any muscles I had left went into hiding. There was no strength for me to do anything. After being dragged out of the shower following my mandatory daily ablutions, I first had to be hoisted into my old mechanical chair, which had been fitted with a new flexible pool chair inside it.

I know that all of these logistics are a tad boring. Let me liven it up with the fact that there was absolutely no way for me to get any trunks on. I’m sure that might not have pleased any of my curious neighbors who happened to be peering out their second-floor windows.

I also had to apply sunscreen myself. My wife certainly wasn’t going to fall for the “I’m too weak to do it meself” argument. You’ve got to try. I’ve always been trying.

Next, I had to be physically pushed and pulled to the side of the pool. A ramp to get me into the back garden had to be laid out. Then on went my new buoyancy jacket. That would help to stop the old drowning, but as it had only a 50N buoyancy rating, if I turned over, it would happily keep me that way.

After weeks of research, I found the jacket to be the least bulky option. Proper life jackets are rated at 150N and are the size of a small adult! Also, they often operate on a one-off gas cartridge.

Anyway, I used my noodle like a high-wire act!

swimming pool \ Multiple Sclerosis News Today \ Columnist John Connor floats on his back in a swimming pool at his home. With a buoyancy jacket, John's eyes are closed in deep relaxation

Finally, I’ve found balance. Sorry to disappoint — this is a Saturday pic! (Photo by Jane Davies)

Who knew swimming could be so complicated for the disabled?

I first tried a company that supposedly supplied gear for us lot, but what turned up was ridiculously small. My wife, who is 5 feet, 2 inches tall, could just about get it on. And even then it was like putting on a constricting snake.

Someone had to be in the water as I was lowered in. Nothing is easy.

I know this is a series of “First World problems.” I’m also well aware of the contradiction of me frequently banging on about climate change while adding to it, though jet travel was hardly in my remit when everyone else was overdoing it. We also don’t have air conditioning. So, there’s my attempt at guilty liberal balance. Add it to my swim one!

What was surprising was how my legs are also buoyancy devices. The lymphedema apparently acts as a float. Water knows water!

This meant that an attempt at the unnatural state of walking was nigh impossible. But there was a sweet spot in the deep end where I could force my legs down and suitably shuffle a few feet forward, then backward. It was a weird sensation, and ultimately, after a few times felt like a marathon — only without the concurrent cardiovascular problems.

Getting out of the pool required the same process in reverse.

My entire family was tired now.

Still, I didn’t get sunburned where the sun never usually shines!


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Wendy Hovey avatar

Wendy Hovey

This made me smile, and not at your expense! I will think of you as I swim with the frogs who keep finding our pool.

Arla Roth avatar

Arla Roth

Bravo! Bravo! from a swim teacher for many years. I admire your pluck and drive. Hope you can do it again this summer.

Danny Whitford avatar

Danny Whitford

What a great article. I'm a dastardly conservative, but I believe you and I would get along swimmingly.



this is so great ...enjoying the pool was just great and i bet felt really good ...we all need to put our brains together and try to find an easier way of getting into the pool...need a way of taking the chair into it like a ramp and be able to get out of it in the pool and a way to pull you in your chair back out ...sounds like a great feeling, the freedom of the body flouting ...go on and enjoy ...


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