By R. Alan Richardson
On July 10, 2013, then only 11 years old, Allie Nash was involved in a horrendous accident. Having been hit on the highway near her home by an oncoming truck, she was life-flighted to Atlanta in an effort to save her life. The brain injuries she sustained would change her life forever. Her mother, Sara Nash, said, “Allie had to learn everything over. She had to learn how to talk, eat and walk along with many other tasks that were daily activities and normal for her.”
Before the accident her first love was swimming. Her mom again commented, “Ironically, what she had chosen before the accident (swimming) has become the best thing for her since the accident.” The last time Allie swam in a competitive meet, she swam the mile. A little over a week ago, she dove into the pool in her first meet since the accident and swam 50 yards. It was a miracle!
Allie started aquatics therapy months ago and has continued to progress ever since. According to her mother, this young fighter has gained strength in her left arm and leg along with improved breathing due to the therapy and swimming.
Much of the credit for her swimming again goes to Coach Andy Dunston of the Marlins Swim Team for allowing her an opportunity to swim with the team and her individual Coach Igor Foltyn. Allie swims with Foltyn two or three times per week and loves being in the pool.
Foltyn is a former swimmer and coach for Swim Atlanta who is now training swimmers at the Morgan County Recreation Department’s Aquatic Center. He said, “Lance Alexander has been so great to work with. The job they are doing to make all sports inclusive or have an alternate program for kids with disabilities is remarkable. I love working in this community. The swimmers, parents, and people here are just thankful that there’s an opportunity for their kids. It’s not the same in a lot of places I’ve worked. I’m truly blessed to be here.”
In an interview with Allie, the 15-year-old said, “I enjoy most the back stroke races because it is my best stroke. My favorite swimmer is Ryan Lochte and my goal is to be on the University of Alabama’s swim team. My coaches are kind, helpful, and encouraging.” According to Mrs. Nash she likes the backstroke because the injuries have made it hard for her to breathe. The backstroke allows her to breathe easier.
Coach Foltyn couldn’t say enough about Allie, “Coaching her is an absolute joy. I’m humbled two to three times each week when she walks through that door at the pool. Her story amazes me. I’m 45 years old now and sometimes wonder how good so many swimmers could be if they had that kind of fight in them. Coulda, shoulda, woulda. I’m loud at times, even with Allie. That’s because I feel like they feed off my energy and it’s not my job to coddle them. She’s just like every other teenager. She’ll try to pull one over on you at times, but Allie is a breath of fresh air to all the kids and they appreciate her. Children with disabilities are welcome in my lanes as long as I’m here.”
The Nash family sent these remarks, “We are so thankful to God for continuing to heal Allie. “To Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,” Ephesians 3:20.
In the past 3.5 years we’ve seen Allie go from not being able to stand in the pool because she was too weak, to learning how to hold her breath underwater again, to being able to swim for 45 minutes. She’s been frustrated and asks why the wreck had to happen, but she kept coming back and getting in the pool. We are very proud of her for fighting this fight. I’m so thankful for Coach Igor’s time and patience, and giving her the opportunity to compete again. She didn’t realize it wasn’t a race for people with disabilities until we were on the way. And even though she came in last in each race, it gave her a boost to come back and work harder than ever.”
It’s obvious that all of us could learn a lesson or two from Allie’s story. As the famous Coach Jim Valvano once said while battling cancer, “Don’t give up. Don’t every give up.” It’s a battle cry for all of us fighting disease and no one carries that banner higher and better than Allie Nash.