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Each week night we turn on our T.V. to watch the reruns of the gripping episode of the "Survivors". Ten men and women have been marooned on an island. The tribal members have contests conjured up by the producers to discern who is going to be the last one left standing. There is a one million dollar prize for the winner.

Let me to tell you the story of a real life survivor. She is not cast away on a exotic distant paradise. To get a glimpse of this outstanding women athlete drop into the downtown Y in London. Look through the glass atrium into the pool and you will see a women doing countless laps. It is an amazing sight to behold; a tiny little person swimming on her back who appears to have no arms and a pair of flippers for feet churning her way back and forth in the pool.

I huff and puff my way to do my morning work out feeling a little sorry for myself. This little dynamo has a focus and goal that we could all try to emulate. I called the branch director, of the London Y M C A who passed on my request for an interview. Susie Mathias showed up promptly at 9.30 in the morning in her motorized wheel chair.

Susie was born with severe birth defects caused by the drug Thalidomide used by pregnant women to help ease their morning sickness. The pill was banned in the US but not in Canada. She was the sixth of nine children, two girls and six boys. Being the middle child is always a challenge but the anguish of having a Thalidomide enfant can be devastating to the parents. She was born with tiny three inch arms that are attached to her shoulders and her feet are unique; the left foot has seven toes and the right has eight. Five, seven or eight doesnít make any darn difference she laughed.

Letís look at her exhausting schedule. She is an early riser with an eight a. m. breakfast followed by a Para Transit ride to the Y three or four times a week. Into the pool she swims for three hours perfecting her back stroke. She averages eighty lengths, two kilometres, each and every day for the last fifteen years. She enjoys the exercise and the socializing with the life guards and the other swimmers. Swimming is the only cardiovascular exercise program that she can take part in; pumping heavy iron she laughed was not a viable alternative.

Susie enjoys horseback riding and has been a member of a wheel chair floor hockey team for five years. She played for the South Western Ontario team that vied for the National North America championship. No slashing or bashing was allowed in her league.

In her spare time Susie is an associate member of the "Mouth and Foot Painting Artists Association." Her artistic subjects include portraits of animals and beautiful landscapes. Her favourite subjects are wolves because they are proud pack animals that rely on each other for companionship and help.

Susie lives alone in her own apartment with the aid of the Cheshire Outreach program. She needs help with her daily needs of food preparation and basic hygiene.

This inspiring women has a philosophy of life for us "normal" people who have a tendency to do too little and complain too much. Her message for us is :"to enjoy life; remember those that are less fortunate; focus on the big picture because in the end it all works out. "

Suzie has two major complaints: "people who complain too much and do too little to effect positive change."

The interview ended with a smile with her parting words; "have to get going, Iím too busy; Get out of my way". It is not often we get to meet the likes of Susie; She shares with us all of her sense of hope, humour and happiness that can never be taken away.

Len Lesser is an education/career counselor http://www.career-education.ca

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com