It’s hard to believe that it has already been nearly 11 years since my paralyzing accident, but thanks to the great mentors and staff where I did my rehab I managed to maintain my sense of adventure. Just a little over nine months post injury I attended the winter ski clinic at Snowmass Colorado, where besides skiing I also went scuba diving. Learning how to ski as a quadriplegic was fun and exciting, but scuba diving as a quadriplegic!?!
With the help of the volunteers I was removed from my wheelchair and set at the side of the pool. After several minutes of trying to position all of the equipment and go over a few signs (which is a little bit more difficult when you are unable to use your arms) we were ready to enter the water. In typical scuba fashion, I rolled off the edge of the pool headfirst into the water. After a few quick tests of the equipment and we were ready to hang out near the bottom of the pool – around 8 feet. It is difficult to explain the feelings and emotions.
Because of the near zero gravity effect, for the first time in over nine months I was able to watch my arms move as I wanted them to! Even the simplest of task of touching my face was an amazing experience. The next adventure was to see my hands actually work. Although I am unable to use my fingers, we played with the weighted water rings for nearly an hour. My scuba instructor would drop him and I was able to see my hand eye coordination as I would catch them as they were sinking. Unfortunately, all great things must come to an end and my time was up.
As my instructor and volunteers were removing all of my scuba gear, my instructor asked how long I had been paralyzed and if I have been scuba diving before. What I was about to tell him nearly made him fall back into the water. I told him I had only been paralyzed a little over nine months and that I was a near drowning victim. The expression on his face was priceless. It was hard for him to believe I was able to get back in the water such a short time after water nearly took my life and do so effortlessly. Part of his reasoning for his amazement is that I use very little of my air tank which apparently is unusual for quadriplegics let alone someone who nearly drowned.
I have always loved water. From the time I can remember I would beg my sisters to take me to the pool, and as I got older I would find myself spending sometimes nearly 7 hours a day in the summer at the pool. Someday I hope to scuba dive in the Mediterranean, but I will never forget my first scuba diving experience at Snowmass Colorado.