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Deptherapy returns to its Roots – Part 4

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Join Richard Cullen from Deptherapy for part 4 of his Blog about the charity’s recent expedition to Roots Red Sea, El Quseir, Egypt.

We are all back to the house reef today; the weather is lovely, the sea calm, the tide will soon be slack, so a great day’s diving in store.

A few yards away from the beach dive centre, on the Roots’ beach is their day time restaurant. It is where we take lunch when diving, and there is a continual supply of tea, coffee and soft drinks, and some marvellous lunches.  There are also male and female toilets and a fully accessible toilet for those using wheelchairs.

A few thoughts around working with amputees and those who have paraplegia. Firstly amputees – the part of the limb remaining is known as the ‘stump’, and we have worked with a substantial number of bilateral leg amputees (both legs), single leg amputees and single arm amputees.  The level of amputation can be above or below the knee or elbow, or through the knee. In one case the amputation was transpelvic and in another through the shoulder.  Some like Chris Middleton have one leg amputated above the knee and one below the knee.  This is rare, but each type of amputation offers a different challenge.

Many people think the amputation is clean and the skin neatly tidied up after surgery. Although that occurs in a few cases, in most the stump is rather rugged.  Elasticity of the skin around the stump is often exceptionally poor and can easily be damaged.  Some of our beneficiaries, as they were injured as young men, suffered from heterotopic ossification – this is where the bone tries to grow after amputation and often penetrates the skin, resulting in further surgery being required to cut back the bone and of course the stump needs to be restitched.  Very often stumps are sealed with skin from elsewhere on the body.

Swars kitting up

Few divers have never experienced a graze or cut underwater but such an experience for those with amputations can have serious consequences.  Stumps are more likely to get cut or grazed as the skin is so tight. We all know that there are lots of infections in seawater and if infected the cut or graze can cause very serious problems for the amputee.  Tailored wetsuits are one preventative measure, as are daily stump checks, making sure there is no damage and if there is, applying medication and or protecting the stump.

Those with paraplegia provide an additional challenge, not being able to feel their lower limbs they can easily damage them, so cuts, abrasions, and even sunburn can go unnoticed.  Donning a full-length wetsuit can be a challenge as toes can easily be broken and hairs pulled out of legs.  On the Deptherapy Education Professionals’ Course we show how to fit a wetsuit properly.

In recent discussions between our dive medicine advisor Mark Downs and our VP Richard Castle, who is a consultant psychologist, we have been looking at areas for further medical research in terms of diving for those with disabilities.  One area of suggested study is thermoregulation. The theory is that those with amputations and those with paraplegia suffer more with the cold as their body is unable to regulate heat. Certainly, in Corey’s case, he feels the cold more quickly than those diving with him. Chris Middleton can feel the cold more quickly than others with amputations but that may well be that Chris is muscle and bone where, to put it nicely, others have a more substantial covering.

Some AMEDs and Dive Referees will not sign off amputees as being fit to dive. That is their professional opinion and although we can show that even triple amputees are more than capable divers, capable of progressing to Rescue Diver standard even, they still refuse to sign them off. Last year Oli and Mark invited us to speak at the UK Annual Hyperbaric Medicine Conference in London where Josh Boggi, the world’s first triple amputee Rescue Diver and a Deptherapy beneficiary spoke about how amputees can become safe and successful divers.

Corey, Swars and Michael

For Corey, he wears full leg coverings and diving boots in the water; as he cannot use his legs there is no purpose in wearing fins.

Another point around amputations is that most of the general population make an assumption that a leg amputation is the result of a traumatic incident.  That is incorrect; by far the majority of leg amputations in the UK are the result of diabetes. Those whose legs are amputated as a result as diabetes are more likely to have poor healing of the stumps.  This also presents an issue of comorbidity that may well result in an AMED or Dive Referee declining to sign them off as ‘fit to dive’.  If signed off you would need to be very aware of the health of a stump; I certainly would not take someone with an open wound diving and the fact that they will be on medication for the diabetes.  You also have to be aware that they may well be on other medication to manage pain etc.

You need to be very clear with those who have paraplegia and other conditions that they must let you know if they start to feel cold.

Managing air – diving just using your arms for propulsion can, for many, be very tiring and a considerable amount of effort is required.  This, plus other factors, may result in enhanced air consumption by the diver.  This may increase if a current is encountered, even one which most divers who have use of their legs and dive with fins would not cause the least concern.

Within Deptherapy we very much work on the ‘rule of thirds’ – a third of your air to get you down and to see what you want to see, a third to get you back to the surface and a third in reserve.  This in most circumstances will ensure no ‘low on air’ or ‘out of air’ situations.

Say if we have 210 bar in a cylinder that means 70 bar out, so turn on 140 bar, 70 bar to return and to the surface so we should have 70 bar reserve at the surface.

We also work our students through SAC rates and looking at the air consumption of others in their team.

Checking the team’s air frequently during a dive is stressed to all our Pro team.

Keiron became very engaged with this concept as the result of the online RAID study for his Master Rescue Diver.

On expeditions we normally dive in small teams, a DM/TDM with three programme members.  They work as a team and understand each other’s air consumption. Of course, they also dive as buddy pairs.

Today offered perfect conditions for diving, and Keiron, Moudi, and this time TDM Oatsie were kitted up and in the water within minutes.

Pause for thought… those with paraplegia will have different toileting arrangements to those who do not have the condition. This also applies to some who have suffered traumatic limb loss.  They may use catheters for urination, some may have Stoma bags etc.  This all has to be planned into your dive schedule to ensure the safety and comfort of your student.  For young people talking about these very personal arrangements may be very difficult.  Those with Stoma bags may be embarrassed by people seeing them.  This is another part of seeing beyond the injury or condition – it is the person inside that you are dealing with.

Corey on the Roots House Reef

So, Corey, Michael and myself were joined by Swars.  Swars, although he joined the DM programme at the same time as the other guys, because of work commitments was unable to join us in September 2019 at Roots where we ran a DM introductory programme alongside the crossover of our Pro Team to RAID.  Swars has become a really good mate; he is a great diver, with an engaging personality.

Michael and Oatsie were a known quantity to me as they had been on the September 2019 programme and both have travelled to my home dive centre Divecrew in Crowthorne, Berkshire, to work on courses, pre-COVID.  During COVID Michael and I, plus a few of the guys from Divecrew, have dived at Wraysbury together.

Just as Roots is our base in Egypt, Divecrew is our base in the UK, and through this relationship, Martin (who owns Divecrew with his wife Sue) is one of our trustees. Together they have established a centre where pretty much 100% of the Pros are Deptherapy Education trained.

I asked Swars straight away to brief a dive for Corey. I gave him the briefing slate, a few tips and then ten minutes later he came back with a perfect briefing… and I mean perfect.  So, a great briefing under his belt; now to watch him work with Corey in open water. He looked the Pro, he knew what he should be doing, he understood his role. We assigned Michael as Corey’s buddy and said he would lead the dive. I was there to assess the TDMs and supervise very closely Corey’s skill demonstrations.

Again, it comes as no surprise that many beneficiaries in Deptherapy can move straight into dive management, as several were NCOs, as was Swars, and they are used to briefing individuals and teams.

We had decided that we would mix up the dives required to complete Corey’s OW 20 RAID dives with some general diving as trim and swimming arm action are all important. We also needed to concentrate on spatial awareness.

We agreed a signal for horizontal trim and Swars reinforced the swim stroke that Corey needed to do to get propulsion.  Every time Corey moved out of horizontal trim Swars was there reminding him about trim and reminding him of his swim stroke.

The Roots’ House Reef is amazing – at a metre you encounter a shoal of black Damselfish, at 3 metres a shoal of Unicornfish, there are Butterflyfish and all manner of other fishes in great profusion.  The coral is in great condition. It really is a place of beauty and tranquillity.

Oatsie and Swars relaxing by the Roots pool after a long day

Although we had problems getting Corey underwater again, once we got him in skill demonstration mode his anxieties disappeared.  We then took him diving. Steve Rattle, the owner of Roots joined us and was taking photos that provide a great record of the week’s diving.  Steve commented on the quality of Swars and Michael’s supervision and control underwater of Corey and gave them feedback on how impressed he was.

Meanwhile on the RAID Master Rescue Course, Oatsie who was in the same Regiment, same Platoon and Section as Keiron in Afghanistan was more than willing to be a very uncooperative victim for his brother-in-arms.  I think Keiron gave Oatsie some feedback about this!

For me this was a hard week, combining running the RAID OW 20 for Corey but also the assessment of our three TDMs.  A week underwater but no opportunity to dive for myself.  People often think Deptherapy Expeditions are holidays for the Dive Team; they are not, it is hard work and I mean hard work.

Tomorrow is Day 4 in the water Day 5 of our trip. We are on the House Reef again, and things are starting to come together. Join us back here on Monday 26th October…


Find out more about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education at www.deptherapy.co.uk

Dive Training Blogs

Diving into the Gift of Choice

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A guest blog by Chad Sinden

Chad Sinden is a PADI Master Scuba Diver Instructor and owner of Ocean Fox Dive Centre, a PADI ® Dive Centre in The Bahamas. His journey to becoming a diving professional has been anything but easy, yet despite all odds he continues to choose to dive-in to seek adventure and save the ocean every single day. Here is his story.

 My mission is to inspire others to feel good about themselves regardless of their challenges and to fall in love with the ocean. An ocean full of magic and wonder. If I can inspire just one person with my own challenges and failings, then I have succeeded.”

While I have been a PADI Open Water Dive Instructor since 2009, a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer since 2019 and the proud new owner of the PADI Dive Centre Ocean Fox Dive Centre, I wasn’t born loving the ocean.

I’ve been lucky enough to introduce a wide range of people to the beautiful underwater world. Regardless of age or ability, my goal is always the same with my diving students—to teach them to love the ocean and encourage them to explore and protect it. I am a firm believer that there truly is nothing more magical than the planet we live on and the contributions you as an individual make to it.

My love for sharks and the underwater world, that I am blessed to explore as a diver, arose from a time in my life where the world held no magic, wonder or mystery above the surface.

In fact, my journey to get to this point has been anything but magical. But my challenges and choices have led me to find sanctity at sea.

Learning to Love the Water, and Myself

I was born with a rare medical condition called ‘Poland Syndrome’, which left me without my right-side pectoral muscle or lateral muscle, made my right hand smaller than the left and gave me webbed fingers on my right hand. My medical condition also left me with severe depression, anxiety and a lack of confidence for most of my young adult life.

I also grew up with a fear of water. I nearly drowned three times before I was 16 and didn’t learn to actually swim until I was 25. And getting in the water with sharks? No thanks!

At the age of 11 my family moved to Australia. While we were surrounded by the New South Wales oasis of green valleys, I remained scared of the ocean and life there was anything but easy. We were illegal immigrants and were very poor. We first lived in a 30-foot-long caravan before moving into a small house that didn’t even have a real toilet.  But looking back I realise this prepared me to deal with less than ideal living conditions in years to come.

When I moved back to the UK as a young adult, I got run over by a drunk driver and was left with severe brain swelling, amnesia and post-traumatic stress that took me three years to recover from.

But my time at hospitals also led to my journey as a PADI Professional. It was at a hospital in Northhampton that I did my first PADI Discover Scuba Diving experience. Shortly after I went on to become a PADI Open Water Diver at Stoney Cave near Leicester. My instructor on that course inspired me to start my own journey to become a PADI Open Water Instructor. I had discovered a whole new world beneath the surface and had fallen in love with the ocean.

The ocean and all its inhabitants accepted me without question. I found home. I found peace. All the struggles I went through did not define me underwater.

A World of Underwater Adventure

Soon after diving into a life underwater, I discovered my passion for megafauna.

I remember the first moment a huge shark glided past me and looked me straight in the eyes. At first, I felt completely powerless and all I could do was stare back. But then that transformed into a beautiful moment of mutual curiosity and respect. A moment of connection between two species who realise they don’t want to harm each other. It is a moment that I will remember forever and I never felt more alive.

I eventually quit my full-time career as an electromechanical engineer to pursue ocean conservation. This led me to the beautiful Fiji Islands, where I volunteered for four years teaching reef conservation and scuba diving to international volunteers and indigenous locals. I was also there in 2016 when the devastating Category 5 Cyclone Winston devastated the island nation. But I will never forget the hospitality and kindness that was given to me by people there who lost everything. They taught me a valuable lesson in hope and kindness.

After continuing to work for many dive centres around the world, I found myself in the Bahamas in 2018. I invested my small life savings into 10% of a dive centre on the beautiful island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas. It was the biggest financial risk I had ever taken.

Finding Shelter and Hope in a Dive Centre

After two years of working at this dive centre, and for reasons beyond my control, the relationship with the other owner had taken a turn for the worse and I was looking for ways to get out of my partial ownership.

At the same time, the global pandemic upended the dive industry and my livelihood. Tourism was shut down in the Bahamas and we entered one of the strictest lockdowns in the world. From Monday to Friday each week we were not allowed to leave the house, not even for food or medical care. The hospitals were simply over run on and the beautiful beaches we were surrounded by were now off limits.

After five months of zero income, a depleted savings account and a maxed-out credit card, I had to give up the small house I was renting and moved into my trusty 22 yr. old Toyota Rav4. It then dawned on me that the dive centre I used to work at was empty. The company couldn’t close or function due to all facilities being shut down.

The wetsuit racks became my wardrobe. The retail floor of the shop became my bedroom. And the occasional crab would become my roommate while the crickets sang to me all through the night.  I lived off generosity of friends family and locals.  And I reminded myself how lucky I was in comparison to those who suffer worse than me.

But I would still cry myself to sleep wondering if I would ever see my family again. I wondered how on earth I would pull through. I hit rock bottom, but reminded myself that I don’t go down without a fight, ever.

I began to formulate a plan to borrow money to buy the remaining assets of the dive centre. Since the banks were not lending, I made a list of every person and company I knew of affluence who I had met over my career that could be in a financial position to help me. I created a business plan for the dive centre and pitched it to everyone on the list. I expected zero response, but to my surprise I had three offers within a month! People recognised the importance of continuing shark interaction training and, more importantly, the excellent professional reputation I had attained from years in the industry.

But the hard times weren’t quite over yet. I managed to return to the UK after eight months of solitude, only to be put through another four-month lockdown with my family. In total, I had now spent more than 12 months without a single paycheck. But hope in my dive centre kept me going.

Diving into New Opportunities

I eventually returned to the Bahamas and reopened the dive centre in March this year. Things were slow at first. I found myself having to apologise to guests as they entered the dive shop and saw my bed leaning up against the wall and my clothes next to the wetsuits and a gas cooker in the corner. But my guests were very understanding. In fact, the tips this year have been the best ever!

Miraculously, we have had a successful season this year despite all the uncertainty and are looking forward to next year being one of our best years ever!

I’ve moved out of the dive centre and into a new home. The bills are paid. The dive centre has teamed up with the beautiful Cape Eleuthera Resort and Marina and are looking forward to becoming a PADI 5 Star Resort and Dive Centre very soon.

Since taking over this dive centre, life has been on the up for both myself personally and professionally. After a whole year out of the water, I am now back diving with my favorite animals on the planet—sharks—and teaching others to love these beautiful creatures as well.

From humble beginnings I am now the proud owner of Ocean Fox Dive Centre in the Bahamas. I am a PADI Master Scuba Diver Instructor who gets to introduce people of all ages and abilities to the magic that lies beneath the surface of the ocean. I get to dive with sharks and be inspired by them every single day.

Life is about choices. What choices will you make today?

For more information about the Ocean Fox Dive Center visit their website by clicking here.

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Dive Training Blogs

Jeff chats to… Rich Somerset, Territory Director PADI EMEA (Watch Video)

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In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-Large, chats to Rich Somerset, Territory Director PADI EMEA Regional Support about Dive Project Cornwall and PADI’s conservation work.

Rich began diving as a teenager on the south coast of England. His university studies took him to the North of the UK and he developed a passion for cold water wreck diving in the frigid waters of Scotland. After finishing university, Rich became only the second person to be awarded the European Our World Underwater Rolex Scholarship. This experience allowed him to travel and develop training in a wide range of scuba related disciplines, including hyperbaric medicine, technical diving and marine conservation. Rich then worked as a PADI Instructor in Australia, Micronesia and the Caribbean before setting up and running dive centres in England.

A PADI Course Director and Instructor Examiner, Rich is now the Territory Director, leading a team of PADI staff supporting over 800 dive centres across the UK, Ireland, Maldives, France, Greece and Portugal.

Find out more at www.padi.com/padi-dive-centers/regional-support/emea and www.diveprojectcornwall.co.uk


Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.

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Egypt | Safaga, Brothers & Elphinstone | 27 January – 04 February 2022 | Emperor Elite

Jump on board this famous Red Sea liveaboard and enjoy diving the famous wrecks of the Red Sea with this fantastic special offer.  Emperor Elite offers a contemporary living space combined with the best itineraries available in the Red Sea.

Price NOW from just £975 per person based on sharing a twin cabin including:

  • Flights from London Gatwick to Hurghada with 23kgs baggage
  • 7 nights in shared cabin
  • 3 meals a day, soft drinks, red wine with dinner
  • 6 days’ diving, guide, 12ltr tank & weights, Marine Park fees and port departure fees
  • Free Nitrox

Booking deadline: Subject to availability.

Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email info@diversetravel.co.uk.

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