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Swimming the English Channel… with the Rocky Mountain MS Center Hydrotherapy Program

By November 29, 2016May 25th, 2021eMS News


Diane Kuehnast is swimming the English Channel many times over. But she avoids the cold, treacherousDiane waters. Twice per week, Diane swims in the pools at the Englewood Recreation Center and Athmar Recreation Center in Denver as part of the Rocky Mountain MS Center’s hydrotherapy program.

RMMSC’s Hydrotherapy Program, led by Physical Therapist Michele Harrison, provides a no stress, comfortable means of great exercise. And the water is an equalizer, meaning that even those with very limited mobility can do things in the water they cannot do out of it.

Diane swims 25 to 30 laps in the pool every week on Tuesday, and then swims again in the Friday class. Her classmates started comparing her laps to the distance of swimming the English Channel. At its narrowest distance between England and France, at the Strait of Dover, the Channel measures 20.6 miles – this is where most swimmers attempt to cross it. Diane swims more than one mile every Tuesday and Friday at the Recreation Center. At that rate she swims the English Channel after every 22 weeks. Diane estimates that she has been swimming at Englewood for more than 15 years, so she has crossed the English Channel many, many times.

Swimming has been one of Diane’s favorite activities since she was a child. She learned to swim in Iowa when her father moved the family there. She took all of the swimming lessons she could and became very good at the all of the different styles, favoring the backstroke, freestyle and breast stroke. While living in Southern California Diane said she would ride her bicycle to the beach and join friends to swim out to the buoys in the bay. In those years she really enjoyed swimming and snorkeling in the ocean. Then, years later, when her husband was stationed with the Air Force in San Angelo, Texas Diane was certified as a Water Safety Instructor and began sharing her love for swimming by teaching lessons. She shared her passion for swimming for many years, teaching so many people how to swim.

And while Diane has lived with the effects of MS for more than 34 years, she hasn’t let it stop her from swimming. Diane’s history with MS sounds similar to what others battling this devastating disease have reported. It began with Diane stumbling and advanced so that she needed a walker. After falling too often, she started using a power wheelchair.

Diane lives independently in a condo at Casa Dorada in Denver – a 55+ age-restricted community. She has aids to help her with day-to-day activities. Besides her swimming with the MS Center’s hydrotherapy program, Diane attends a seated yoga class on Wednesdays at Washington Park in Denver. As for hobbies, Diane is working to frame the many photos her father collected over his years in the Air Force. She keeps tabs on current events, likes 50s and 60s music, and enjoys old movies. She also enjoys visits with her daughter, Alissa who lives in Denver.

Diane considers herself lucky to be able to continue to swim and enjoys the camaraderie with the others – regulars – she swims with through the Rocky Mountain MS Center’s hydrotherapy program. A humble person, when her classmates talk about how many times she has swum the English Channel she just shrugs. Because for Diane swimming is a passion she has enjoyed her entire life…and she doesn’t have to face cold water, jellyfish and waves to get to the other side of the Channel.

Interesting in participating or volunteering with RMMSC’s Hydrotherapy Program?  Please visit or call Michele Harrison at (720) 273-7461.

This article was written for RMMSC by Cindy Christensen, a Hydrotherapy Program volunteer. Thank you, Cindy!


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