Got2Dive With Our American Veterans

December 2011 American Vets Get Scuba Certified

Got2Dive had to get involved with the  HSA “Dive Buddy Program”. The Handicap Scuba Association Certification offers able-bodied scuba divers the opportunity to expand their underwater world to include sharing it with a handicapped partner. An HSA certified Dive Buddy receives nearly as much information and skill training as a scuba instructor, except the training focuses on recreation, not instruction.

The first day of HSA class was jam packed with instructional and video material of amazing disabled scuba divers such as paraplegic and blind divers. Our studies included health and dive considerations of a variety of illnesses, injuries and conditions.

Our second day was a full day all day in the pool. We simulated being a blind scuba diver, paraplegic and quadriplegic scuba diver. Then we reversed the role and were the able-bodied divers assisting the disabled diver.  While simulating a blind scuba diver I found the experience to be peaceful and relaxing. We used tactile signals such as stop, up, down, air, time and depth, etc. I swam the pool perimeter with my able-bodied diver. Both of us were communicating to each other using our tactile signals. I found myself quickly developing a sense of trust with my able-bodied diver as she guided me through the water.

Simulation: Quad diver with two able bodied divers.

Simulating a para diver I was amazed to find out how my legs float without fins and the importance of having the proper weight on my ankles to maintain a horizontal position. A para diver has use of their upper body so they are able to perform the basic dive skills required for scuba diving such as: inflate and deflate their BCD, clear their ears and mask, check their gauges and communicate to the other divers. The Para Scuba Diver does not have the use of their legs so they use their arms and special webbed gloves on their hands for propulsion through the water. I was amazed at how different and tiresome it is to swim and push my body through the water just using your arms.

Simulating a Quadriplegic diver for me was the most humbling and trust-invoking experience. Three able-bodied divers, a primary and secondary are required to assist a disabled quad during a dive and the third scuba diver is a buddy for the two divers assisting the quad diver. The able-bodied diver’s are responsible for the preparation and assisting the disabled diver for the entire dive: Suiting up, gear assembly and the dive itself.

The able-bodied diver’s have to multitask all the basic dive skills on himself as well as for the quadriplegic diver. Once geared up properly and in the water there is a series of challenging skills that must be performed. The primary diver deflates his BC, then deflates the quad’s BC, clear quad’s ears, then clear own ears, adjust buoyancy while continually communicating with the quad diver. The secondary able body diver is assisting with the quad’s body as he deflates his BC, clears his own ears, adjust his buoyancy as all three of the divers descend. This task is repeated all the way to the bottom. This is an amazing task load for a simple procedure.  Once down the able body divers have to be careful not to put the quad diver into an uncomfortable position so he doesn’t get inadvertently injured.

Once everything is ok then it is time to dive. The secondary scuba diver assistant helps with leg positioning  then we start to scuba dive the perimeter of the pool with our simulation quad several times. We swim, swim, adjust our BCD to descend, then adjust quad’s BCD, clear quad’s ears, then our own ears, swim, swim inflate our BCD, then inflate quad’s BCD all the while watching quad’s face for signs of issues or problems. Continually communicating to our disabled quad diver asking “OKAY”  using our fingers.  Communicating with nods, shrugs and blinking from our quad that everything is okay we continue our pool dive.   The primary scuba diver is holding on to the quad’s tank and the secondary diver is helping with the quads legs and watching for dragging of the feet so not to injure any toes.  This is a very busy process as we descend and then continue our dive.

After a written exam the third and last day of our HSA class for the completion of our open water HSA Training we went to Hudson Grotto. It was a  full day of reviewing and executing all our new HSA skills we had done in the pool the day before.

I loved taking this class!  For me the volume of learning in the three days was phenomenal!  I can not recommend enough the value and appreciation of this certification!  We are looking forward to using our HSA skills again in July in Weeki Wachee Springs and assisting our disabled Vets with our awesome friends at Good Roll Model. At Got2Dive we Love Our American Heroes.  Thank You for your incredible sacrifice and serving our country!