For Osoyoos resident Pam Jensen, her new favourite recreational sport of lawn bowling has restored a particular joy that has been missing in her life since suffering a serious aneurysm in 2013 which left physical disabilities in its wake.
A much anticipated holiday nearly 10 years ago turned sour after Jensen fell one night in a hotel room only to find out she had experienced a brain aneurysm.
“We were on holiday and about to head out to Denmark the next morning,” she says, explaining they had long looked forward to visiting her husband Chris’ birthplace.
“I had just gotten up in the middle of the night, and I fell down, and my husband [Chris] kind of laughed because he thought I walked into the wall.”
Once at the hospital emergency ward, a CT scan confirmed the worst, but luckily a combination of a quick diagnosis and the serendipitous presence of a world-renowned neurosurgeon meant treatment was immediate and damage was not as bad as it could have been. “It was divine interventions,” she says.
The road to recovery and rehabilitation wasn’t easy and involved “work, work, work,” she says. But one key thing worked distinctly in her favour.
“I was very active. I used to run a lot, including 5K competitions a couple of times, and we had a running group.”
She also rode her bike a lot, including trips to cycling destinations like the Kettle Valley Rail Trail which she did two or three times with friends. She also used to paddle board quite extensively, thinking nothing of paddling from Legion Beach over to sw?iw?s (formerly known as Haynes Point).
“I was extremely active and athletic, that is why I have done so well. I think it’s because I was so active. I've always had a lot of muscles and I was always very strong.”
She did try to get back into recreating with a return to cycling.
“I have a recumbent bike [a bicycle that places the rider in a laid-back reclining position] so I would ride to work until we discovered my brakes aren’t very reliable and coming home is all downhill so for safety reasons we kind of parked in a while.” She says she does still ride it but only in flatter areas, but of course tourist traffic in the summer added another kink to that plan.
As to how she got into lawn bowling, she says her friend Helen is “always looking for interesting and fun things to do, so she said, ‘It’s three free lessons why don’t you come with me and try lawn bowling?’” And the rest, as they say, is pretty much history.
“I tried it and I thought this is fun because it’s competition, it makes me feel a little bit athletic again it's great to get that feeling back again, it’s really wonderful,” she says, the tempo of her voice rising with obvious enthusiasm.
The main challenge she faced is the balance part she says, calling it “tricky.”
“But I used to do the balance beam when I was young, so I’ve always had a pretty good balance,” she says adding that her physiotherapist in Kelowna has remarked how stable she is.
Speaking to Jensen at the Osoyoos Lawn Bowling Club where she was competing in her first tournament, she says was pleased with the first day of the two day event, but admitted she was tired. “It’s been a long day,” she adds.
“I used to often have a rest in the afternoon but I’ve cut that out. I’m trying to build endurance,” she says.
And her advice to people with disabilities: “Never give up, just keep on trying and lawn bowling is a good safe activity with very, very supportive and wonderful people,” she says.
“Just try it. As I said, it just makes me feel a little bit athletic again, which is huge. It’s a wonderful thing and it’s safe. You’re not running, you’re not skiing down a slope and crashing into a tree and breaking bones,” she laughs.
But Jensen noted she did in fact break two bones earlier this year. In one case, she simply ran into something at a big box store in Kelowna and in the second case, she slipped in the bathtub and broke her elbow. “There’s certainly still challenges,” she says, as Chris nods in agreement.
She plans on staying with lawn bowling, saying she’s expecting to get new bowls which is the term for the balls in lawn bowling. “It does bring me a lot of joy, but I still gotta keep working on it, I want to keep improving. I want to be the best I can possibly be,” she says with conviction.
Husband Chris is fully supportive of her newfound favourite recreational outlet.
“I think it’s excellent," he said. "She loves it and she’s actually very good at it.”
He adds that “the club is amazing, all the people stand behind her and help her out.”
Of all of them, Chris is obviously her biggest supporter and helps her out on the bowling green by collecting the bowls after each set. “I wouldn’t be here without him,” she says as they exchange a glance that clearly speaks of far more than simply lawn bowling.