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Pam Schmuki received a SilverSneakers award last week for bouncing back and taking advantage of the program after a life-saving liver transplant. (Staff photo by Riham Feshir)

’Walking miracle’ finds second wind at Woodbury Y

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Pam Schmuki spent three years bed-ridden, on oxygen most of the time, and suffering from a failing liver. She had no muscle tone in her body and she couldn’t read, write, speak fluently or even pull a loose T-shirt over her head.

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Now the Cottage Grove woman is swimming, line dancing and practicing Tai Chi.

“I’m one of your walking miracles here,” the 68-year-old said. “Miracles happen. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.”

Schmuki is a 2013 regional winner of the Swanson SilverSneakers award as a participant of the eponymous program put on by the Woodbury YMCA.

The program encompasses many activities that help those in rehab get back on their feet. Literally.

Schmuki received a liver transplant in 2010 but her body kept rejecting it for eight months.

A life-saving treatment at the Mayo Clinic stopped the rejection and she finally started to recover two years ago.

That’s when she began taking SilverSneakers classes.

Though she was recovering, when she first started exercise again, she could barely walk. But that didn’t stop her from continuing to attempt to move her body.

She used her wheelchair during class, then a walker and eventually she no longer needed assistance. She began using exercise bands to strengthen her body as much as she could.

“I started to make the trip back to health,” she said. “I feel great. Every day is great to be alive.”

Though Schmuki still has times where she sits during dance class, she said it’s about working slowly on her muscle strength.

And now she’s added Tai Chi and swimming.

“All of these I might sit for half the class,” but added it’s all better than being sedentary, watching television or reading a book at home.

“I’m shooting to be like the instructor here, Mary,” she said of line dancing. “She’s 74 and you’ll never know it.”

Schmuki’s instructors say she’s an inspiration to others struggling with all kinds of illness that keeps them bedbound.

She received her award at the Woodbury YMCA last week where she told a room full of visitors, “Don’t give up just because you feel like giving up.”

Though she was naturally hesitant to attend all of those exercise classes, she said SilverSneakers made her feel comfortable enough to use the activities as a way to get her life back.

“Nobody makes me feel stupid,” Schmuki said with a laugh, “which you do feel conspicuous when you start.”

But her strong will to live through her golden years, especially with Claude, her husband of 41 years, kept her going.

“A lot of faith,” she said. “A lot of people praying for me and I firmly believe that. A strong will to live.”

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Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.
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