After several medical ordeals, Cynthia Oles is feeling better than she ever has. Thanks to her treatment at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center’s Renal Dialysis Unit; help from The Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living; and the Bart Adaptive Sports Center, known as BARTS she is trying new things and having fun.
In 2001, she, a retired telephone company employee, and her husband Charlie, a retired postman, moved to Bennington from Hopewell Junction, NY, where they had raised their family. Their children had started their lives elsewhere, and they wanted to downsize in their retirement. They found their home, a small ranch, on Burgess Road in Bennington.
Since 2008, when Cindy had three heart attacks and a triple bypass surgery, she’s coped with several difficult medical surprises. A broken arm, organ failure, and becoming a long-term renal dialysis patient. A bout of gangrene, caused by poor circulation, led to the amputation of both her legs.
She remembers the doctor providing her choices: hospice care, a surgery with a 3 percent success rate, or the amputations.
“I looked at my husband. It was a choice, but it wasn’t really a choice,” she said. “We went with the amputations.” She uses a power chair to get around and makes lighthearted jokes about how good a driver she is.
Because of her new disability, she was invited to a special barbecue at Lake Shaftsbury by the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living in the summer of 2016.
“We didn’t know anybody there at the picnic, but we went anyway,” she remembers. “We enjoyed being there and watching the people kayak on the lake.”
In the spring of 2017, she had a bout with congestive heart failure. After the tests, her doctor indicated that her heart, weakened by the heart attacks, would not hold up through the procedures he would normally recommend.
“His advice was enjoy every day and take it easy,” she said.
She took the “live every day” advice seriously and disregarded the “take it easy.”
“I feel better than I ever have,” Cindy says. “I don’t want to take it easy.”
At this year’s picnic, she decided to try kayaking. Her husband was wary, but she persisted.
“I didn’t even know how I was going to get in the boat,” she laughs.
But she didn’t let her uncertainty slow her down. When she wheeled up to Joe Hurley of BARTS and told him that she wanted to give it a try, he didn’t hesitate.
“He said, ‘Great!’” she recalls.
He lifted her up and placed her in the boat. His daughter Betsy Hurley, who was already paddling along, taught her how to balance and use the paddle.
&lldquo;I had to learn everything, because I had never done it before.”
Through BARTS, she also biked for the first time since her children were young. She attended several of the organization’s Thursday biking sessions in the Bennington Wal-mart parking lot over the summer. As winter comes on, she’s thinking of learning downhill skiing.
“I am feeling good about trying new things,” she says.