Andrew Du Toit – C5 Quadriplegic

Andrew Du Toit – C5Quadriplegic:
My diving experience with the Handicapped Scuba-Diving Association
Ever since I had a spinal cord injury 8 years ago and became a complete C5 quadriplegic I tried to get back into life and do things that I normally used to do as an able-bodied. I soon began to realize that there were certain things that I would never be able to do again. This made me very frustrated that I had gotten to a point where I just wanted to give up on life. As the years moved on I slowly but surely got my life back on track. I now live in my own place, swim with my physiotherapists at the Welgeheul hospital 2 times a week, go hand cycling twice a week, have a standing frame which allows me to stand up which is good for bone density and I have done a skydive.
When I heard about scuba diving and how free you feel in the water this was something I wanted to pursue but was not possible in South Africa as diving schools were not certified to dive with handicapped people. This made me very frustrated and people told me I would never be able to do it. This made me want it even more. I got myself very healthy and managed to get through the doctor’s health requirements but still nobody would dive with me. I was so frustrated that I got to the point of thinking about employing someone off the side of the street getting them trained and going diving anyway.
Then all of a sudden I heard about the Handicapped Scuba Association coming over from America to instruct dive instructors to dive with handicapped people in South Africa. In the beginning I thought that this was a joke but it was to become a reality.
From then on everything became blurred. We all started out at Forever Resort Warmbath where we began our pool training which we did for 2 days. All of a sudden there were other people with disabilities, camera and media people and the rest of the group whom I did not know. This made me very nervous as I have not really been exposed to others with disabilities. I would personally like to thank Forever Resorts for making my stay there very pleasant as the room I was staying in was very wheelchair accessible and the bathroom was my main concern which was very adapted to my needs.
Then started our trip to Mozambique going through the Kruger National Park into Mozambique. This was a rough trip but after 16 hours we managed to get there. I have never travelled in Africa other than South Africa and I was very excited to go see another country on our continent. The place of destination in Mozambique Guinjata Resort . We were greeted with great hospitality and made felt at home. The management and staff went out of their way to make their resort as wheelchair accessible as possible. They prepared a deck on the beach where we could settle and enjoy the ocean view.
This is where we kitted up in our wet suits and got onto the boat. This was then towed across the beach and pushed into the water. 2 people assisted me onto the boat and one sat behind me to give me body support. As we reached our place of destination, I was gently put into the water where one of my dive buddies was waiting to assist me. Once I was comfortable, my other dive buddy jumped off the boat and that’s when we began our descent.
What a different world, I felt totally free underwater and was now experiencing something that I have never done in my life before. At the end of the week I had completed 5 dives at an average depth of 15 m. And I am now certified as a level C – .H.S.A. diver.
At the end of the day I had achieved my goal, met new people with similar life challenges and made
some new friends.
A special thanks to Lynn and Zelda for making this a reality and for Bernie the owner of Guinjata Resort for putting his neck on the line and going out of his way to make his resort cater for people with disabilities and to scuba dive at a great location.
They will definitely see me again with my friends and family in the near future.