Teammates stand up for Parkway swimmer with painful skin disorder

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – A swimmer at Parkway South High School who has been an inspiration for her team received a big show of support from her teammates during a swim meet at the school Thursday. They started their race by standing in the water instead of diving into it because that’s what their teammate has been forced to do.

Ella Furjes, 15, has a rare skin disorder that leaves her with painful blisters. Standing on her feet is too difficult and painful, so she dives into the water from a kneeling position.

Ella was recently told by state officials she could no longer kneel and must stand to compete.

The Parkway School District filed a request with state officials to allow Ella to kneel while diving. Swimming is the one sport she can participate in that does not cause her pain.

“I mean, it’s my favorite thing in the world,” she said. “I don’t know what else to do.”

Ella was moved by her teammates’ willingness to show their support. She also just wants to be able to compete in a way that does not cause her pain but allows her to jump into the water.

“I think she’s a great example that you can still do things that you want to do even if you have a limitation or a disability and to fight for what makes you happy,” said Gwen Furjes, Ella’s mother.

The family was notified on Thursday that Ella would be allowed to kneel on one knee if she has one foot on the starting block. Ella’s mother had mixed emotions over the decision, saying, “It’s a compromise.”

The one thing Furjes is certain about is the pride she feels over her daughter’s determination.

“There have been some tears this week for sure but that is what is amazing about Ella,” Furjes said. “She’s still here tonight and figuring out a different way.”