Frank Juskievitz – C7 Quadriplegic:
Life is valuable and precious…… and so I thought. Then I went scuba-diving. The revelation of valuable and precious have now taken on a new meaning and dimension. Valuable in the sense that living with a physical disability for some 27 years has been good, routinely mundane and merely just going through the motions. I had not partaken in any sport or recreation since my spinal cord injury. Scuba-diving is a life changing experience I needed. I can now partake in life’s pleasures even as a person living with a physical disability. At a depth of 5 meter or more the playing field has been leveled. At this level able-bodied and disable people are both on a par of weightlessness and freedom of movement. In this environment, life has become most valuable being filled with some amazing and valuable moments of freedom from my disability and the life of awe and inspiration from the kaleidoscope of colours and abundance of underwater life.
The golden rule of scuba-diving is to always breathe and never hold your breath.
A simple rule? Right.
So easy to say, yet so difficult to exercise; you constantly find yourself holding your breath in awe of the amazing underwater scenery and the glimpse of the glory of the Lord. Over the years my motorised wheelchair has become my comfort zone and the place I learned to adapt to life, to learn and to spend up to 15 hours a day. Take me out of this comfort zone and I feel totally helpless and insecure. Let alone this, you are still being placed in a heated pool – without a lifejacket! I must be undergoing shock therapy… and I’m glad I did.
Placing my life, my trust and my fears into the hands of my diving instructor is all part of the communication and challenges that are necessary to transform my life to a new comfort zone. The training is intense, scary yet exciting. Every skill learned in the confined water space is an achievement, a small step of victory in qualifying for the open water dives and the ultimate certification as an HAS scuba diver. Each step of victory is a tribute to the professional instruction, dedication and passion of my instructor to teach me to dive and to dive safely. The HSA training I received provided me with the confidence I needed to boldly face the open water dives with ease. What a breeze and pleasure. As challenging as the training seemed at the time, it now seems so absolutely insignificant in relation to your first underwater glimpse.
The first time I submerged my face into the ocean waters I was instantly engulfed in a new underwater world of wonder. As I descended closer to the reef beneath I was amazed and in awe of the indescribable glory that totally surrounded me and that kept me suspended in the zone of weightlessness and absolute freedom of movement. For the first time in over 28 years I realized I was in an environment where I was not aware, conscience or bound to the limitations of my disability. Freedom at last. I am now addicted to scuba-diving at Guinjata Resort and this is the most precious gift to me. It has certainly added value to my life. The added value of new friends & buddies, new interests and new passions to explore the oceans of the deep in the environment of weightlessness and freedom of movement. I now have a new sense of being. I am not merely going through the motions, but rather find myself invigorated and living life to the full as a person living with a disability. Living and planning my next dive with enthusiasm.
This is all wonderful and amazing, but rather selfish if it was just for me. On this trip, I have seen the
remarkable changes to both my fellow students and instructors. Students boldly facing their fears and apprehensions and being transformed with confidence to laugh, to cry and to live unashamedly.
Instructors, loving and passionate to stand in the gap, to make our dreams become a reality.
This event has been truly awesome and life changing to both students and instructors alike. Words alone will only do this event an injustice. My greatest joy is not my life changing experience in itself, but rather being able to share my life changing scuba experience with others and inspiring people with disabilities to take up the challenge and become HSA certified scuba-divers.
You can do it !!!
Lastly I would like to extend our eternal gratitude to all our heroes who made it possible for us to live our dreams. Without you this would all remain a dream and fantasy. Thank you for investing in all our lives. We purpose to maximize the return of your investment by inspiring others.