17-Year-Old Sets World Records for Swimming Despite Disease That Almost Killed Her

poolI am a sucker for "kid does something amazing" stories. Any time a teenager manages to set a world record in sports, it's worth shouting about. But when you factor in the fact that Victoria Arlen was close to death five years ago, the paralyzed teenager's new world records in swimming take on special meaning.

Can I repeat those words "close to death"? I don't like to hear them bandied about when we're talking about a child.


The 17-year-old from New Hampshire might be paralyzed because of rare spinal cord inflammation she suffered at 11. But she's headed to London now to represent the United States in the Paralympics. And she's already got not one but two records -- one each in 100- and 400-meter Paralympic swimming. She's set 11 American and Pan Am records. Not bad for a kid who was "close to death" a few years ago, huh?

I know a lot of parents who would use their child's near-death experience as an excuse to clamp down and refuse to let them do anything in the least bit risky ever again. You could call them helicopter parents. I'll just call them shortsighted.

Because Victoria's triumph in the pool at the US Paralympics trials this week is the type of thing that can happen when you let go and let kids live a little. They get to dream the dreams that kids are supposed to dream, the kind of dreams that we mourn when a child's life is cut too short too soon.

Next time you find yourself getting neurotic and too caught up in the idea of mortality, you might want to think of her!

What do you wish you could say to Victoria today for coming back from such a devastating illness to set world records?


Image via Simon_Sees/Flickr

Read More >