Clovis News

Differences disappear when these kids swim

Bethany and Braxton Wong swam around a north Clovis pool this week, taking their final lesson with their 10 preschooler classmates.

Unlike the other swimmers, the two 4-year-olds didn't have all their limbs to paddle through the water.

Birth defects left Bethany without most of her right arm and Braxton with a shortened deformed right leg, which was amputated above the knee in December.

None of that slows them down as they floated on their backs, slipped down the slide and jumped into the pool.

"They swim like all the other kids," said Jan Thomas, owner and operator of the swim school, which pairs each swimmer with an instructor. "These kids are so well-adjusted."

Bethany and Braxton - who finished up their swim classes Monday - are vivacious and upbeat, Thomas said. "Everyone is amazed as they watch them swim."

Their mother, Tamera Wong, said swimming is a great equalizer for her two children and others with physical challenges.

"The water just levels everyone out, and I think they like that," Wong said.

Thomas, who has operated her swim school for 52 years, agreed. She said her school has taught a number of children without limbs to swim.

Bethany and Braxton were adopted separately from China by Wong, who works part-time as a behavioral consultant for children, and her husband, Bryan, an accountant for the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. The Clovis couple also adopted another child from China - a 6-year-old girl, Brooklyn.They also have four biological children ages 7 through 14. Tamera Wong said her adopted children have blessed the Wong family. She said Bethany and Braxton are an inspiration.

"I think it's important to focus on what we're able to do, instead of focusing on what we aren't able to do," she said. "I think it's good for the rest of us because it makes us thankful for what we have.

Learning to swim is important for the Wong children - Bethany and Braxton did not know how to swim before taking their lessons - because the family home has a pool, Tamera Wong said.

She doesn't see her youngest children's lack of limbs as obstacles.

Her motto is: "Legs and arms are overrated."

Bethany also has played T-ball and soccer. Braxton's surgery prevented him from doing the same, though he no doubt will participate in other sports, their mother said.

Braxton recently was fitted with a prosthetic leg, prompting someone to ask Bethany whether she wanted a prosthesis, Wong said.

Bethany didn't see why she would.

The 4-year-old girl responded, "What's wrong with my arm?"