We would love to share with you one of the entries for our Thankful for the Ocean contest from Joanie Tomlin.

Joanie Tomlin
A photo of Joanie Tomlin with her doctor’s note that
says, “Patient is cleared to return to scuba diving.”

I am a runner, a veteran of 12 marathons including Boston. I am a scuba diver with over 700 logged dives. I am a stroke survivor.

It happened on my commute the evening of July 25, 2007. I felt my left arm go numb, like it was going to sleep. By the time I got home my entire left side was numb. I knew something was dreadfully wrong, but I also kept thinking “this can’t be happening to me!” My husband asked “How do you feel?” I said, “I feel like I’m having a stroke.”

To his credit, he did not say a word; he simply carried me to the car and drove to a local hospital. Later someone said that I could not have gotten help faster if we had called 9-1-1, and in my case the speed with which I got medical attention most likely saved my life.

Two days later I was still paralyzed on my left side. As I was wheeled back to my room after more tests, I vowed to myself ” I AM going to walk again.” That night I unhooked all my monitors and crawled to the bathroom. I sat there crying tears of joy, while another part of me reeled at the irony of being happy I got to the bathroom by myself. Is this what my life had suddenly telescoped down to?

I was in the hospital for almost a month. When I went home, I was assigned three home health care therapists: physical, occupational and a regular RN. I was given pages of exercises and followed them with the same discipline I approached marathon training. Every day I ran on the treadmill, at first gripping the handles to keep from falling. It took me 15 minutes to run my first 1⁄2 mile. I watched underwater videos as I ran, swearing to myself that one day I would dive again.

I was off work for three months. By this time they had determined the cause: two torn arteries in my neck. I was given the all-clear to dive. And I returned to the sea on March 22, 2008. It was a chilly overcast day and vis was horrible. It was the best dive of my live.

All of my life the ocean has been my fortress of solitude, my house of worship. In it I find peace, comfort and clarity. It takes me back to where I have been or forward to where I need to go. I cannot think of a better place to be than under the sea. But now the ocean is also a symbol of victory: victory over my stroke. And for that I am truly thankful.