Swimmer returns to water after losing leg

Bonnie Raume poses with her gold medal at the Washington State Senior Games. She holds up her right leg, the lower part of which was amputated about a year ago.  - Courtesy Photo
Bonnie Raume poses with her gold medal at the Washington State Senior Games. She holds up her right leg, the lower part of which was amputated about a year ago.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

Last summer, Islander Bonnie Raume’s right leg was amputated below the knee. This summer, the 66-year old swam in the Washington State Senior Games for the first time in years. She used to enter the competition annually.

Instead of limiting her mobility, Raume said losing her leg rid her of chronic foot pain and allowed her to once again do what she loves.

“I have my life back. I’m very grateful,” she said. 

Raume, who was born on the Island and graduated from Vashon High School in 1962, was born with a rare condition where the main joint on the top of her foot was fused. She grew up unaware of the condition, swimming, playing sports and working on her feet at Thriftway. Raume remembers experiencing foot pain, but compensated by wearing an ankle brace.

“All that time (the joint) was breaking down, and I didn’t know it,” she said.

Twenty years ago, when the pain worsened, Raume saw an orthopedic specialist and learned of the problem. After several surgeries and two ankle replacements, Raume’s foot collapsed, and doctors at Swedish Medical Center told her amputation was the best option.

“I was in so much pain, and the only other choice was the wheelchair, and I would still have the pain,” she said. 

Raume now wears a prosthetic leg and is again able to swim, bike and horseback ride, activities she avoided in recent years because of foot surgeries and related foot pain. 

“It hasn’t slowed me down,” she said of her new leg, smiling.

Raume, who now swims regularly at the Vashon Athletic Club, said learning to swim with part of one leg the missing wasn’t as difficult as she expected.

“My husband said I was going to swim in circles,” she said with a laugh.

On July 24 she entered four swimming events at the Washington State Senior Games, an annual sports competition for athletes 50 and older held in Olympia. 

The competition includes more than 20 other activities such as basketball, tennis, soccer and pickleball. 

It was Raume’s seventh time swimming at the Senior Games, but her first time in several years. 

“I got to see a lot of old friends,” she said.

Raume won first place and a gold medal in the 25-yard breaststroke. Despite being the only swimmer in her age category — 65 to 69 — Raume’s breaststroke performance was met with cheers and applause by audience members and fellow swimmers on the sidelines. 

“They were all so supportive,” Raume said. “My goal was to go and finish the races. I was excited because I did get a gold medal.”

One of the people cheering Raume on from the sidelines was Islander Karen Peterson, a fellow Vashon swimmer who entered the Senior Games for the first time this year and took home several medals. The 65-year-old who swims competitively said she was surprised to see Raume, whom she knew from Vashon, show up in her swimsuit at the event.

“She did a great job,” she said.

Peterson said she appreciated the laid-back and supportive atmosphere at the Senior Games and enjoyed seeing Raume swim when she wasn’t competing against her. 

“Just signing up for it takes a whole lot more than most people can imagine,” Peterson said. “She’s a real inspiration.”



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