Diahann Frazier has a passion for running. She competed on her high school and college track teams and ran road races over the 25 years that followed. But five years ago, a debilitating disease “stopped me dead in my tracks,” she says.
She was diagnosed with mixed connective tissue disease, also called Sharp’s syndrome, a rare autoimmune illness that causes many symptoms, including joint swelling and pain. Eventually, her knee pain became so severe that the once-active mother, Army veteran and Riley County Police Department corrections officer was barely able to walk.
“I was always so healthy and vibrant,” Diahann says. “The thought of not even being able to jog was a crushing blow, a real game changer.”
Then she heard about the Ascension Via Christi Therapy Center in Manhattan and her life took a promising turn.
With the help of physical therapist Bethany Wallin, she began doing exercises in the center’s 92-degree therapy pool. Immersed up to her chest, Diahann’s knees bore just 25 percent of her weight due to the water’s buoyancy. The water compressed her joints, reducing inflammation and allowing her to move with less pain.
After a short timeout for meniscus repair surgery on her right knee, Diahann returned for aqua therapy. Wallin soon had her walking on the underwater treadmill. By adding ankle weights and treading against the resistance of the pool’s jets, Diahann gained the strength and stamina to eventually work up to a jog. The goal was to get her actively functioning on land.
“Bethany kept telling me she was going to get me running again,” says Diahann of her therapist.
The two had a goal: improving Diahann’s mobility so she could complete the annual obstacle course fitness test required for her job at the police department.
With Wallin’s assurance and coaching, Diahann slowly gained strength, mobility and the confidence to start jogging on dry ground. One year later she completed the course in well under the allotted time.
“It was amazing,” she says. “I never thought I would be able to jog again!”
Today, Diahann, 52, once again leads an active lifestyle. In addition to working at the police department, she co-pastors the River of Life Family Worship Center in Topeka with her husband of 27 years, Sam.
To keep her symptoms at bay, she continues water therapy exercises on her own. And while she’s not competing in races, she is enjoying activities with less pain. Regaining her mobility has also helped her shed 60 pounds.
“Having aqua therapy was life-changing; it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”