Despite only taking to the pool for the first time in his life 12 months ago Andrew Mauch, who has spina bifida, is set to take part in the swim-a-thon next week to raise money for people with disabilities.
Despite only taking to the pool for the first time in his life 12 months ago Andrew Mauch, who has spina bifida, is set to take part in the swim-a-thon next week to raise money for people with disabilities. Erin Smith

Andrew conquers his fear, and disability, to dive in

TWELVE months ago swimming one lap of a 25m pool was not something Andrew Mauch had ever considered possible.

Andrew, now 36, was born with spina bifida - a birth defect caused when the bones of the spine do not form properly around part of the spinal cord.

Water, especially deep water, was something that had always terrified Mr Mauch.

"I was worried that I would never come back up- that I would drown."

A year ago, after a gentle push from his family, Mr Mauch took to the pool at WIRAC for the first time in his life.

"I spend a bit of time in boats and deep sea fishing so my family wanted me to be able to swim if I ever fell out," Mr Mauch said.

"Confidence was the hardest part of it. But I gave it a go and it proves that it is never too late to learn."

Andrew has been hitting the pool at WIRAC on a Monday and Wednesday, with WIRAC team member Carla Thornton as his coach.

Ms Thornton said she had really enjoyed training Mr Mauch and was amazed by his determination.

"When he first started swimming he wouldn't put his face in the water," she said.

"We started in the hydrotherapy pool and moved on to floating on his back.

"Eventually we moved out to the 25m pool.

"That was when the fear really set in.

"At first it was assisted swimming and now he is completely confident.

"I don't even need to walk up and down the pool beside him, I just count his laps."

Confidence was something Ms Thornton wanted to give Mr Mauch.

"I didn't want to use physical aids such as a life jacket," she said.

"I wanted him to trust himself.

"Now he even gets in the pool by himself."

And after overcoming his fear, Mr Mauch said he thoroughly enjoyed swimming.

"It is getting me fit and making me stronger," he said.

"I also go to the gym on Mondays and Wednesdays as well."

Andrew Mauch flying up the pool during his training session yesterday. Photo: Erin Smith / Warwick Daily News
Andrew Mauch flying up the pool during his training session yesterday. Photo: Erin Smith / Warwick Daily News Erin Smith

In one week's time Andrew will be jumping in the pool for the WIRAC swim-a-thon, to raise money for Youngcare during Disability Action Week.

"I just want to do it to help raise money for people with disabilities," Mr Mauch said.

"It was also a good personal goal."

When he is not busy training he helps out at his family's farm at Freestone.

Mr Mauch's dad Merv said taking up swimming had done wonders for his son.

"I am very proud of him," Merv said.

"There was a lot of pressure when he took it on.

"He did have a big fear of water and since taking up swimming he has lost a lot of that.

"It is great for him; it has really helped with his muscles and his confidence."

Merv said while his son did not let his spina bifida get in the way of life there were limits on what he was capable of doing.

"He gets on the four-wheel motorbike and helps out on the farm," Merv said.

"He can't do much walking around the farm, it is hard on him.

"He does do a bit of leatherwork, plaiting whips and stuff.

"Just to give him something to do."

Raising a child with any sort of disability is not an easy task and Merv said raising a child with spina bifida was no different.

"It was very difficult thing to cope with," he said.

"You don't really understand what it is like until you have to deal with something like that.

"Andrew was born with it and it bothered him a little bit at times but being born with it is different to being able to walk and then ending up in a wheelchair one day.

"There are people better off but there are also people worse off.

"He seems to be coping with it.

"The swimming has helped lift his spirits and it gives him something else to go and do."

The proud dad said he could not wait to go and cheer on Mr Mauch at the swim-a-thon next week.

Disability Action Week starts tomorrow and you can make donations towards Youngcare or purchase raffle tickets at WIRAC.



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