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Former athletes test the waters

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By Greg Woods

sports@hclocal.com

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Many adults find it hard to stay active and competitive as they move into the work world and begin to raise families. Sophia and Macy Foree are no different.

Sophia was a basketball and tennis player at Pulaski County High School. After graduating in 1986, she continued her athletic career at Kentucky Wesleyan University where she played basketball for two years and tennis for four years.

Macy was an all-state cross country and track athlete at Jessamine County High School in 1989 before going to the University of Kentucky where he was a member of the school’s club cycling team.

The two met when Sophia enrolled at UK’s pharmacy school.

Macy had deep roots in Henry County and the couple moved here in 1995. They have two children, Sarah, 16, and Noah, 15.

They have found an athletic pursuit in competitive swimming that has allowed them to stay fit and compete while working and raising their children and in spite of several physical setbacks in recent years.

“I pretty much shut down when we had kids,” Macy said. “I was working and farming. But that is when I started to break down physically really,” Macy said. “But Sophia continued to stay active. She did some triathlons and continued to run and bike.”

“Having kids limits you in that you cannot work out as seriously,” Sophia said. “I tried to get a couple of days a week in when I could find time between taking care of kids, working and keeping house. Doing those things were more important at the time. You have to sacrifice some when you have kids.”

The last few years have made it even more difficult for the couple to stay active because of a series of medical issues for both.

Macy was suffering with serious back issues and after years of trying to correct his problems through non-surgical means, he and the doctors came to the conclusion that his bulging disc would require surgery.

“By 2008 my left leg started really hurting,” Macy said. “I went to the chiropractor and a physical therapist and did everything I could to get better. It was a bad herniated disc. In the middle of all that my appendix burst.

“It hurt, but not real bad, and I didn’t know what had happened. I waited two days before I went to the hospital. I had surgery and spent ten days in the hospital.”

Macy continued to struggle with the back problem after his emergency appendectomy but tried everything possible to avoid surgery.

“It was 2011 before I finally had the surgery. I was 40 years old and becoming a physical wreck,” Macy said. “After the surgery I was doing well for about three weeks and then it started hurting just like before. I went back to the doctor and he told me I had a one in 10,000 situation where the remainder of the disc fractured and started bulging out again. So I had a second surgery early in 2012 that finally fixed the problem.

“At that point, as I was getting better, is when Sophia had her accident.”

On June 23, 2012 Sophia nearly lost her legs in a boating accident on the Ohio River.

“We were skiing at Wise’s Landing near the power plant and then we were going to go down to Tumbleweed for dinner,” Macy said. “We had the kids with us and almost nobody else was on the river that day.”

“I was in the water and getting ready to ski again and Macy was bringing the boat around to me,” Sophia said. “A barge had gone by on the river and its wake started pushing me toward the propeller.

The accident happened in the blink of an eye but to Sophia time slowed down as she realized what was happening.

“I got real calm and said a prayer,” Sophia continued. “I said, ‘Lord if you are ready to take me I am ready, but if you let me live please don’t take my legs.’ As I approached the propeller, I put my hands on the back of it and tried to raise my legs up away from the propeller but my legs sunk back down and hit it.”

The children, Sarah, who was 14 at the time, and Noah, who was 13 at the time, reacted differently.

“Sarah actually held the towel on my legs and applied pressure while making the 911 call,” Sophia said. “Noah was a complete disaster. Macy told him to pick up the ski and bring it to the boat and he was just sort of frozen. He said, ‘Mom, I can see your bone!’

Sophia said that the emergency crew was waiting for them by the time they reached the dock.

The surgeon who repaired her mangled legs said that he could almost guarantee that there would be more surgeries due to the fact that they had been in the Ohio River when the injury occurred.

In August Sophia had to return to the hospital because of a severe infection and have a second surgery. She was put on strong antibiotics to fight the infection.

“It was healing nicely but we had a hard time getting the wounds to close,” Macy said. “But, eventually they did close and by fall, maybe September, she went back out and skied one last time just to get over the mental part of it.”

“The kids like to be out on the boat and we feel like it is a good way to still get family time with teenagers,” Sophia said. “I just wanted to overcome my fears so I just got back in there and did it again.”

“I had a hospital bed here in the middle of the living room for several weeks and Sarah waited on me and the kids really learned to do stuff for themselves,” Sophia said. “I guess until that point I babied them and did things for them. From that point during our recoveries they really grew up. That has freed us up to join the swim team and become more active.”

“ So to make a long story short, one of the two of us sat right there in the hospital bed for a year and a half,” Macy said, pointing to the spot in their living room where the bed had been.

In the fall of 2012 they started swimming as a form of recovery and to start getting back into shape.

And then another medical issue cropped up for Macy around Thanksgiving of 2012. “My gall bladder went bad and I had to have it removed,” Macy said. “That was kind of small potatoes compared to everything else. They did it as an outpatient surgery and I was feeling better in a couple of days.

“My back was fixed but I was still pretty immobile and I’m not one to do all the stretching and exercises,” Macy said. “So Sophia suggested to me that I start swimming because she was already swimming and she thought it would help.”

Sophia says that running is no longer a realistic option for her due to nerve damage and scar tissue that has altered her running stride significantly.

After all the hardships the couple continued to swim and eventually were asked by some friends they had made at the Family Activity Center swimming pool at Clear Creek Park in Shelbyville if they would like to join the masters swim team.

The team is called the Clear Creek Salamanders and is for anyone ages 18 and up. “We have people as old as 70 on the team and there are a wide range of skill levels,” Macy said. “The good thing about it is that I wouldn’t get up and go every morning if it wasn’t for her going with me and the fact that it is competitive. That motivates me. If you don’t go regularly you fall behind.”

The Forees have to follow a disciplined schedule in order to stay in competitive form.

“Team practices are Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30 in the morning and I go about five times a week and Sophia does it about four times a week,” Macy said. “We swim between 3000 and 3500 yards at each practice.”

The team has competed in several meets including competitions in Bowling Green, Lexington and Louisville.

The strides that the couple has made in just two years of swimming are huge and Sophia is obviously impressed with how far her husband has come.

“When he first started he challenged our daughter to a race and she beat him,” Sophia said. “Now he is one of the top swimmers on the team and can compete with many of the girls on the team who were college swimmers.”