Roller skating champ ‘Magnificent Millie’ learns to skate again at 89 following stroke
YAKIMA, Wash. — For thirty years, roller skating champion “Magnificent Millie” Lewis believed her skating days were over.
But after Millie had a stroke in August, physical therapists at Landmark Care and Rehabilitation made it their goal to help her skate again.
“We feel very fortunate if we can even get a patient to be able to walk with a walker again,” occupational therapy assistant Chanin Clayton said. “And then, there’s Millie.”
Nicknamed “Magnificent Millie” in roller skating circles, she won the Northwest Regional Championships in 1985, earning her a placement at the national tournament for roller skating dance.
“You would think when you meet Millie, ‘She’s so quiet and she’s so sweet,'” physical therapist assistant Susan Sears said. “You don’t think she’s got the heart of a lion in there, but she does.”
Clayton says her goal is to help inspire patients in different ways. When she visited Millie at her home and saw the look in her eyes when she picked up a pair of roller skates, she had a unique idea.
“Millie, along with her family, helped make Millie’s hope of skating again come true,” Clayton said. “This shows that at any age, anything is possible.”
Several therapists worked together to figure out how to use a LiteGait device to make it happen. The LiteGait is a harness-like training device that helps people with weightbearing and balance.
“It’s hard to get people in that just to stand in it, let alone roller skate,” Sears said. “At 90 years old, to not even hesitate to let us put her in that and let her skate around this place, is pretty darn amazing.”
About six weeks after Millie’s stroke, on Oct. 8, her daughter posted photos and videos of the former roller skating champ, which soon went viral.
“None of us had any idea,” Clayton said. “Our goal was only to make her smile.”
In the two weeks since, the post has racked up 44,000 likes, 36,000 shares and 6,400 comments in multiple languages from people all over the world.
Millie continues her rehabilitation at Landmark in three disciplines: physical therapy for gait training, occupational therapy for increasing independence and speech therapy for cognition and safety with swallowing.
“I’m trying to learn to talk again,” Millie said.
Working toward the goal of skating again, Millie has pushed to get stronger — and left quite a mark on her therapists’ lives along the way.
“Watching her bravery and her grace and her patience, that’s how she impacted my life,” Clayton said.
When asked how her therapists make her feel, Millie said, “On top of the world.”
Millie will celebrate her 90th birthday on Nov. 1.