Shaw Barney isn’t much for timetables.
Undergoing serious back surgery in March, Barney was given a series of dates when she could get back in the pool.
Floating, nothing serious: four to six weeks. Actual swim practice? Two months. Competing? A minimum of three months at the earliest.
Barney wasn’t having it. She was getting back in the pool far quicker than that.
“The first time I got into the pool to do freestyle was 23 days after surgery,” Barney said with a smile before a recent meet. “It started off as a goal, and I was so driven to get back into the water. I wanted to start as soon as possible. I wanted to push myself in recovery as much as I could.”
Diagnosed with scoliosis, a medical condition where a person’s spine curves from side to side, when she was 11, Barney did all she could to straighten her spine. Chiropractic work, even a brace, nothing seemed to work.
As she finished eighth grade earlier this year, one option remained — undergoing surgery that fused part of her spine. The clock was ticking.
Weeks ahead of schedule, she got back into the pool and started working back to where she was pre-surgery. The hard, exhausting work over the summer paid off.
Heading into her freshman season at Plainfield co-op, Barney swam in her team’s first meet in early September, just five-plus months removed from surgery.
All the hours in the pool, all the rehab, it paid off. The nerves? Oh, yes, they were there, too.
“The day leading up to the first practice, I was so excited to get back into the pool,” Barney said. “I got in the water and it was all nerves. I didn’t want to hurt anything, didn’t want to do anything wrong. When I started, though, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be.”
If making the transition from grammar school to high school wasn’t enough, Barney also was making the jump to the varsity swim team. Oh, and coming off major surgery, too.
“For her to come in where you can see that scar (on her back), as a coach you’re thinking ‘I want to handle this right. I don’t want to push her the wrong way,’ ” Plainfield co-op coach George Sam said. “She’s almost at the times she was before surgery, and it’s been a really cool thing to be a part of. As long as you’re feeling healthy, keep pushing yourself a little more each day. She’s starting to come on a lot.”
Barney estimates she’s at about 85 percent physically and getting better each day. Her times are dropping and the freshman possibly could swim on the 200-yard freestyle relay team.
She’s taking it one day at a time, but as always, she’s pushing.
“Everything feels so much better,” Barney said. “I’m still working toward it. I always want to be better. I feel like as the season goes along, I’m slowly getting back to where I was.”