Teaching or assisting divers with disabilities requires an alternative view and approach but in the end is extremely rewarding.
As you travel, explore, and continue your dive adventures, ask yourself how you can help others, and make diving that much better for those who love, or may one day love, the sport.
This entire experience to date shows the heart of the dive community. Time and again, individuals and groups took personal time to spend with a young lady who has a passion for scuba.
Scuba diving is a sport that allows people to first learn about the sport, and then carry education and experience down various pathways of adventure.
by Darren Pace:
When a wounded warrior comes home from Iraq or Afghanistan, it can take a long time for him or her to heal physically and overcome the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, a nonprofit organization called Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba (SUDS) offers veterans a novel and powerful way of accelerating this painful process: It brings America’s heroes deep under the ocean.
John W. Thompson, a veteran of the U.S. Army National Guard, founded this initiative. This project began with a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. One day, Thompson met his wife for lunch at that renowned institution, and seeing so many wounded soldiers spurred him to begin volunteering with the American Red Cross. When the Red Cross assigned him to its aquatics department, Thompson witnessed firsthand the therapeutic properties of water.
Thompson, a certified scuba instructor, realized that he could employ his diving expertise to improve the lives of injured veterans. Thus, in 2007, he launched SUDS as a chapter of Disabled Sports USA, and he set up its headquarters at Walter Reed. Today, every SUDS staff member is a volunteer, and most of those volunteers have served or are currently serving in the military. SUDS gives each of its members the opportunity to earn an official Scuba Diving International (SDI) certificate. Further, in 2013, this group opened a branch at Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD).
SUDS members study scuba fundamentals online, and they can proceed at their own pace. Afterwards, they practice various techniques in therapy pools. And veterans who have suffered severely debilitating injuries, amputations, and/or the loss of their hearing or sight can attain certification through the trademarked Scubility program. Scubility instructors undergo special training in order to teach a variety of alternative underwater skills.
In virtually every case, being underwater offers servicemen and women profound relief. For starters, when people are submerged in water, they become weightless. And when they’re freed from the constraints of gravity, it removes pressure from aching muscles and joints. Plus, weightlessness enhances mobility and improves respiration.
What’s more, the undersea world is a strikingly peaceful place; people often experience feelings of transcendence as they mingle with ocean creatures. That tranquility is especially important as many SUDS participants are struggling with the lingering emotional effects of PTSD and the stress that often accompanies extensive medical care. Indeed, some of these individuals are facing dozens of major surgical operations. But when they plunge into the water, they can escape that anguish for a while. Thus, many SUDS divers discover that they’re enjoying themselves for the first time since their active duty ended. Equally important, they can make friends in the process — friends who truly understand what they’ve gone through.
Finally, scuba diving and SUDS is ideal for our veterans who love to travel. For example, Thompson now lives in Rincon, Puerto Rico, and every week during the winter, he takes a veteran on a dive excursion so they can work together one on one, off of Desecheo, a tiny and uninhabited island of Puerto Rico. SUDS also takes its members on 12 longer trips each year; groups head to such exotic locales as Hawaii and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
On December 9th, 2012, Leo Morales established a new Guinness World Record of Deep Diving for people with disabilities. With the support of a team of professional divers, he went down at 400 feet (120 meters). It was a complex and dangerous dive, for which Leo used 6 to 7 tanks of different gas mixes.
Leo is 39 years old and has been disabled for over four years. In September 2008, he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, chondrosarcoma, which was already well spread in his right leg. He was given six months to live. Leo underwent intensive chemotherapy and radiation that, unfortunately, did not produce any results. The only option left was to amputate his leg at the hip to prevent the disease from progressing, although he was only given a 20% chance to come out of the surgery alive.
Leo survived the amputation. Thanks to the unconditional support and love of Larena, his wife, he managed to overcome his disability and what were the darkest moments of his life. The desire of wanting to leave a legacy and to be a source of inspiration and motivation grew stronger.
Leo resumed diving, a sport that he started recreationally in 1997 when he first moved to Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and fell in love with the ocean. Leo quickly came up with the idea to establish a world record in the area of technical diving to set an example that people can actually overcome their disabilities and go after their dreams. For Leo, the only disability is in the mind, but should definitely not be physical.
Leo is today in good physical condition and in good spirit. He lives to the fullest, knowing how precious life is and why it is so worth living.
The attempt of the record took place in the beautiful waters of Cozumel, Quintana Roo, at Palancar Reef, on December 9th, 2012 during the Cozumel Scuba Fest. To have the record accredited, Leo needed to come out of the water without showing any signs of decompression sickness and/or overexpansion injuries, and he needed to get back on the boat on his own. He was successful at both of these feats, thus setting a new Guinness World Record.
By setting this record, Leo wants to remind people with disabilities to never give up or lose hope and to encourage them to make their dreams come true.
CONTACT LEO MORALES: For any questions regarding this World record and its logistics please communicate directly with Leo Morales at +521/9841553535 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org or with German Yanez at +521/9871137044 or by email email@example.com.
Contact SDI TDI and ERDI
If you would like more information, please contact:
All of us at SDI™, TDI™ and ERDI™ ask you to please learn more and get involved!
Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba (SUDS) at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) in Bethesda, MD is designed to help improve the lives of injured service members returning from Iraq & Afghanistan. By training the warriors in a challenging & rewarding activity it can help facilitate the rehabilitation process & promote mobility. Offering this venue provides the service member with a sport they can enjoy throughout their life. SUDS is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization & a chapter of Disabled Sports USA.
The SUDS organization has been training wounded warriors to dive as part of their rehabilitation since February 2007.
During this time SUDS has worked with over 200 injured veterans. The scuba instructors are American Red Cross volunteers and active or former military and all the training utilizes SDI™ & TDI™ training certifications.
The SUDS group runs several trips per year to complete the injured veteran’s scuba certification to a variety of great warm water locations.
In December 2011 they ran a trip to Turks and Caicos with six injured veterans from across the country to do continuing education. So far in 2012 SUDS has run its 5th trip to Rincon, PR where four men from WRNMMC (Walter Reed National Military Medical Center ) in Bethesda, MD and two men from the NMCSD (Navy Medical Center ) San Diego participated working towards their Rescue Diver certifications.
The SUDS program continues to offer open water certifications at WRNNMC at Bethesda to our American heroes, and several of these men and women move on to advanced certification.
Follow SUDS on Facebook, Twitter and join the SUDS Newsletter by visiting their web site.
While you are at www.sudsdiving.org see how you can help. Divers like you are needed to help Heroes like these!
To learn more about SDI™ please visit https://www.tdisdi.com
Ever tried scuba diving? If so, you can agree it’s a sport that offers an incredible feeling of freedom. The weightlessness of the water, the muted sounds of sea life, the excitement of exploring coral reefs, caves, and wreck sites — these are all reasons why scuba is such a popular sport.
But for injured soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, scuba is much more. It’s an effective form of rehab that promotes mobility and instills confidence in men and women facing new disabilities like amputations and traumatic brain injury.
A program called SUDS (Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba) has helped young, wounded heroes by offering scuba dive training as aquatic therapy treatment. Since the nonprofit began in 2007, SUDS has awarded open water dive certifications to well over 200 injured veterans.
“These soldiers were all very athletic, active people before their injury, and now they suffer from amputations—some are triple amputees, and they see that if they can do something as challenging as scuba diving, they can do anything,” said John Thompson, founder of SUDS, which is a chapter of Disabled Sports USA and partner of the Wounded Warrior Project.
The dive certification is impressive, but it’s the intrinsic value of the program that has made such an impact on participants.
“SUDS helps keep you active and helps you to push yourself,” explained veteran Shane Heath, who lost his left arm and leg during his third deployment in Iraq. “The mental rewards are the biggest thing. It builds confidence in that just because you’re injured doesn’t mean you can’t participate in life. It’s been an absolute blessing for me.” Shane is now training to become a dive master and spends his free time playing disc golf and following his dream to be a singer and songwriter.
SUDS scuba classes are offered weekly at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Much of the training can be done in the pool, but soldiers take trips to the ocean to complete their dive certification.
“My favorite moment is watching these guys come up from their first dive and seeing how excited they are when they realize there really isn’t much they can’t do,” described Larry Hammonds, volunteer dive instructor for SUDS and assistant manager at Adventure Scuba Company in Chantilly, Virginia. “They develop a whole new attitude toward life.”
“The ocean trips are very therapeutic. It’s a good group of guys, and when we’re there, we don’t think about our injuries,” said Dave McRaney, who was injured during his service in Afghanistan.
These trips are much-needed getaways from wounded warriors’ normal hospital rehab routines, and destinations have ranged from Cuba to Puerto Rico and the Florida Keys. But trips and equipment are expensive, so SUDS relies on support and donations from a number of businesses and organizations.
A Helping Hand from a Local Business
Adventure Scuba Company is one of the businesses committed to SUDS and its mission. In the past four years, the business has supported SUDS in a number of ways. The owners have donated equipment, provided free maintenance, hosted raffles to raise funds for the cause, and given a percentage of profits from its open houses and dive trips.
Company owners Henry Johnson, Bob Potterton, and Peter Juanpere came across SUDS when they were looking for a way to use their business to give back to the community. Henry is a retired marine, Bob’s dad was in the military, and a handful of dive instructors are also ex-military, so SUDS was just the right fit.
“We wanted to do something that meant a lot to us,” said Bob Potterton. “We’re a small shop and we can’t help everybody, but we can certainly do what we can for our military guys and gals.”
In the past, Adventure Scuba Company used its status as a dive tour operator to help arrange a SUDS trip with the use of its condos in Key Largo. Next year, the shop will put together a live aboard dive trip for injured veterans in the Bahamas or the Florida Keys.
“The veterans risked a lot and we believe they deserve a lot in return. We’re going to continue to help out as much as we can,” added Henry.
Megan Tyson is a freelance writer and cause marketing consultant. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.brightercausemarketing.com for more information about cause marketing copywriting.