Pam has a degenerative bone disease that had her relying on a wheelchair to get around. In 2006, two weeks before she was due to have surgery that would restore her ability to walk, her husband lost his job and with it the insurance that would have covered the procedure. Everything was canceled, and Pam was left to figure out how to attempt to get some mobility back on her own.
She thought swimming would likely help, so she and her husband came to the South Oakland Y in 2006. Since neither she nor her husband were working, they needed financial assistance to join, which the Y was able to provide them.
Thanks to her own determination and hard work, and some pushing from aquatics director DeShawn Wallace, Pam went from using the chair lift to get into the pool to swimming the length of it. Eventually, she was asked to volunteer as a teacher for some of the water exercise classes, and now is part of the Y staff, helping other people who are facing the same kind of challenges she overcame.
Most remarkably, she can walk on her own, which she attributes mostly to her exercise at the Y. People come to her classes with all kinds of physical challenges, and she can serve as inspiration and example to them, she says.
With a degree in nuclear medicine, Pam could likely be making more money working elsewhere, but the Y is a special place and she wants to be part of it, she says. “It’s where I am supposed to be,” she says. “Once you realize what you are doing makes you happy, that’s what you should do.”