In a quaint neighborhood just outside of downtown San Luis Obispo, California, Aqua Therapist Kay Heaton is improving lives in her aqua therapy pool. Using her 40 years of education, expertise, and real-life experience in kinesiology, aqua integration, and water dance, Kay operates the only training center in the world to offer gyrokinesis in the water.
At her renowned aquatic therapy center, Club K Aquatic Center (Club K), individuals living with debilitating diseases like multiple sclerosis, ALS, and muscular dystrophy and people dealing with repercussions from strokes, car accidents, back surgeries, joint replacements, chemotherapy etc. are healing through exercise. They are regaining strength, enhancing their flexibility, and reducing pain thanks to Kay.
Club K’s specialized, hands-on approach includes fluid movements, gentle stretches, and exercises performed in a heat-controlled pool (at least 92 degrees Fahrenheit). The warm water is essential to reducing any likelihood of muscle spasms and promoting optimal healing.
“I am very passionate about what I do,” Kay explains, “because I can bring people into warm water and provide a service that I know will reduce their pain. So right here, right now in this moment the pain they normally can’t escape from is gone. In 20 years maybe there have only been two people this has not occurred for.”
Kay’s work also has long-term impacts for her clients. One client who suffers from MS does therapy with Kay three days per week. While the client is unable to move outside the water, in the water she can move her arms and even pull herself up on the side of the pool. Another client who had back surgery months ago has been seeing Kay regularly to break up scar tissue and regain mobility. The agonizing and constant pain he experienced for months is now gone.
“Each of our clients has unique needs,” explains Kay, “but one thing is true for every one of them, exercise is essential to their healing.”
Kay understands the importance of exercise first hand. In her late 30’s, Kay ruptured three disks her in back in a gymnastics accident.
“Literally I did not walk for six weeks,” Kay explained. “My right leg couldn’t carry me. Surgery was a possibility but I wouldn’t hear of it. Instead, I heated my pool and started walking in it to heal myself and further investigated aquatics rehab. The doc saw I healed myself and started sending patients who he thought I could help. That’s how Club K began”
Then in April 2012, Kay started to experience shortness of breath, swelling of her legs, and intense itching of her skin. She was extremely sick, was in and out of doctors’ offices, and was even put on oxygen for extended periods of time. Then she received the diagnosis – Amyloidosis (a rare red blood cell cancer). It had attacked her heart, kidneys, and skin. Just as she faces every life challenge, Kay got right to work to fight it. She fought hard, and was seen by wonderful doctors in San Luis Obispo and nearly every department at Stanford.
“I was treated in Stanford’s oncology, hematology, cardiovascular, dermatology, optometry, and ear nose and throat departments,” explained Kay. “And every single department said the same thing. They all told me to exercise. And the thing that saved me during the roughest, toughest times was that I was in such good shape.”
Two and a half years later Kay has beat the cancer! She is in remission and says “lots of love and support” from her amazing support group at Club K helped her make it through. What’s extraordinarily amazing is that Kay continued to workout during most of her battle and provided aqua therapy to her clients in the pool. She is a heroine inspiring those who meet her to keep moving.
Kay is a dear longtime friend of GH Sports. She inspires our staff to move and to stay active, reminds us that being positive is a state of mind, and shows us that one person can make a huge difference for many. Thank you Kay!