EB's Diving Therapy

Three and half years ago I sustained a high level cervical spinal cord injury leaving me completely paralyzed from the shoulders down – a full quadriplegic. I can't walk, I can't run, I can't even feed myself  or give myself water.  I am completely dependent upon others for all of my activities of daily living. Life can be very hard on a daily basis and it takes a tremendous amount of mental fortitude to stay positive and continue to live a fulfilling life.

In 2014 after my injury, my doctors and physical therapists told me that I would never regain any function below the level of my shoulders. This was obviously devastating news. News that I simply could not accept as truth. And so thus began my life of physical and occupational therapy ad nauseam – to prove to myself and everyone else – especially my doctors – that I would regain some kind of function down the line.  Physical therapy on land has been very expensive, painful, exhausting and reaps very slow benefits. Patience has become quite the virtue. Yet, I refuse to give up, I refuse for others to tell me "no"and I live by the mantra that anything is possible. And it is…

Two years ago I was invited to be part of the Craig Hospital therapeutic recreation departments adaptive scuba diving program which was held in Cozumel Mexico. Not only was this an opportunity to practice traveling as a quadriplegic, but it also provided me one of the greatest gifts that I have encountered since my injury – the ability to be free from my chair, float and breathe under water. Underwater, I am like everyone else. There are no wheelchairs. There is no disability.

The healing property of being underwater for me was tremendous. Pain completely vanished, my full body inflammation reduced to almost nothing, and spasticity was almost nonexistent.  I had almost forgotten what it felt like to not have pain every day – It was an amazing feeling.  More importantly, my team and I  witnessed something very unexpected… My arm had  started to move in the water, just a little bit, but it was moving. My little plan to prove the doctors wrong was working…

Realizing the incredible importance of underwater therapy, I was able to attend the second year diving trip. Once again, the freedom of being out of my chair and underwater was tremendous. I was excited to see how much my arm would move. Lo and behold, after a few days of diving and in the water, my right arm moved to such a degree that I was able to propel myself independently of my dive buddies in the water on my own, without help, without anyone pushing me. We were ecstatic. I was ecstatic. It was a miracle. The water is my therapy.

Unfortunately, as with anything, the cost of this trip is extremely expensive. I need to travel with a trained caregiver and personal assistant to help facilitate all of my basic activities of daily life type cares, but also safely and effectively getting on/off the airplanes, getting me on/off the diving boat,  facilitating breathing underwater and clearing ear pressures including the assistance of two dive buddies, taking care of my gear, accessorizing hotel rooms, you name it, we have to do it. It's a lot of work. 

All in all, the trip costs me $6000. The previous two years I was funded through a special alumni scholarship fund at Craig Hospital, but alas this year my scholarship was denied. I cannot work as a physical therapist anymore and therefore I have no revenue source to cover this type of therapy. My writing at the Christopher and Dana Reeve foundation provides a very small stipend – only $500 a month – and so thus the majority of this therapy will hopefully be  funded by the gracious donations from my friends and family.

Please help me make this aquatic dream once again a reality. A life breathing underwater without a wheelchair is a life worth living…

Much gratitude and many blessings.

*the video I posted shows how much I was able to move my arm the second time around in the water. The progress is astounding!


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EB Forst 
Littleton, CO
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