Hope Harrington wanted to swim more than anything until pectus carinatum, a deformity of the chest wall, stole that from her. Harrington’s sternum was twisted by 15 degrees; her heart was positioned dangerously close to her ribs.
It was treatable – Harrington had a bar implanted in her chest – but strenuous activities still carried too much risk.
“I was angry,” she said. “I wallowed in self-pity.”
Determined, Harrington found a way to get in the pool. She volunteered as an assistant to Garner High School swimming coach Tad Berube.
“I said, ‘Berube, I’ve got pretty good technique, if I say so myself, could I come in and help you?'”
In her sophomore and junior years, the girl they called “Woman of Steel” attended every practice.
“Working on their starts, working on their turns, working on their stroke technique, she ate it up,” Berube said. “She became great at it. She became my right-hand girl.”
Before her senior season, Harrington had the bar removed and got to finally dive in as a competitor only to get a splash of reality.
“The first meet, was not that, well, I couldn’t get out of the pool,” she said.
Since then, she’s set small, incremental goals for every event and has been achieving them all.
Doing so as one of the varsity squad’s captains.
Berube points out that title is earned. It doesn’t always go to the most athletic participant, but the one with the most heart.
“The fact that she hasn’t swam didn’t diminish her ability to be a captain and a leader on this team in any way,” he said. “She deserved it.”
Now, in her final laps as a high schooler, Harrington plans to use her experience as inspiration to study towards a career in medicine.
“I look back on it, and realize, it could’ve been much worse, and I was lucky that it wasn’t,” she said. “I wouldn’t change it at all.”
Source HighschoolOT.com WRAL Radio