Like all swimmers, Sandys Amanda Snodgrass has a set list of essentials to toss into her bag before leaving for a meet. For Snodgrass, that list includes typical affects like her swim cap, goggles and a towel. However, Snodgrass has to ensure she has a few unusual additions – medication and an EpiPen. Those last two items are the most critical because taking a swim, her favorite thing in the world to do, could potentially be life-threatening.
Snodgrass has a unique health condition that makes an average plunge far from average. Her ailment is known as temperature-induced anaphylaxis, which means she cannot control her body temperature. In simpler terms, Snodgrass is allergic to cold water.
If its too cold, I cant breathe while Im in the pool, Snodgrass said. Its extremely painful, even after dealing with it for a few years.
About five years ago, Snodgrass and her parents had their first run-in with this peculiarity when they were installing a swimming pool in their backyard. On the two days the family filled the pool, Snodgrass got sick after coming in contact with the frigid, glacier water. On the third day, she immersed herself in the water. That caused her body to go into shock, and she passed out.
That was the clincher that led to her diagnosis. Such an incident could repeat itself if Snodgrass dives into cold water. She can also experience swelling, welts and lung closure if water temperatures dip below 80 degrees.
Doctors dont know what caused these symptoms initially, and they have no way of reversing them. The condition may remedy itself one day, but it may not.
Before the shocking pool episode, Snodgrass had been swimming for two or three years without incident. Since then, Snodgrass has had to cope with her condition, which has brought with it a great deal of strife.
Snodgrass, along with the Sandy coaching staff and athletic director Scott Maltman, reaches out to the various pools for assistance. They ask pool staffs to regulate the water temperatures. Some are happy to comply, while others are much less cooperative. In one case, Snodgrass was told by a pool director to join the Special Olympics if she needed special accommodation.
In some of the bigger meets where we cant control the temperature, I have to just deal with it, Snodgrass said. As soon as I get out of the pool, I have to take medicine and wrap up in a towel or blanket before it gets too bad.
As menacing as her condition is, Snodgrass has never let it break her.
Snodgrass has been on the Sandy swim since her freshman year, and has become one of the most reliable swimmers on the team. She has put in countless extra hours in the pool and is now capable of swimming several events if the team needs it.
Its incredible to have someone like that, Sandy coach Jamie Paul said. She has worked as hard as anyone, and it shows, but her biggest growth has come as a leader. She is always vocal and always delivers the message.
Snodgrass is a team captain for the second year and as soon as you walk into a meet, you know why. She is the first to cheer on and encourage her teammates, regardless of the outcome. That leadership, and her ability to win, helped the Sandy girls team to a phenomenal regular season run.
As a senior, Snodgrass hopes to end her high school career on a high note with a solid showing at the district and state meets. Snodgrass is hoping to get some attention from college swim programs, so the postseason meets could double as auditions. More than that, she mostly wants to do well for her teammates. Snodgrass relationships with them are what she will take with her when she climbs out of the high school pool for the final time.
Swimming has been such a bonding experience and I have made some amazing friendships, Snodgrass said.
No matter where her competitive swimming career takes her, Snodgrass will love the sport and the people in it. Welts or anaphylactic shock will never be enough to keep her out of the water because the very thing that threatens her life has become a major part of her life, and it always will be.