Pediatric Rehabilitation Patients Enjoy Special Scuba Diving Opportunity

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Miller Children’s pediatric rehabilitation patient, Noah, takes a deep breath from a respirator, above water, to get the hang of how to breathe with the device before taking a plunge.

Miller Children’s pediatric rehabilitation patient, Noah, takes a deep breath from a respirator, above water, to get the hang of how to breathe with the device before taking a plunge.

On Saturday, Aug. 16, past and present pediatric rehabilitation patients from Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach were invited to the hospital’s indoor rehabilitation pool for a special scuba diving event. As part of a series of summer activities designed to keep patients active, the Handicap Scuba Association (HSA) and pediatric rehabilitation therapists from Miller Children’s put together a unique program that teaches scuba diving to patients with various diagnoses such as, spina bifida and cerebral palsy.

With help from a certified scuba instructor, patients are taught how to properly use a respirator and float with a scuba tank on their back, as well as the functions of the various components of their scuba gear.

While in the pool patients would dive underwater and perform specific tasks that were designed to help them learn to control their bodies with the scuba gear on and train them to dive without any help from the instructors.

Scuba instructor, Denise Dowd, has been with the HSA for 26 years. Her involvement with the HSA began when she met a paraplegic man on a diving trip at Catalina Island, who spoke with her about scuba lessons for the disabled and how they helped him.

Scuba instructor Denise Dowd goes over the diving experience with a patient and her mother while explaining the function of each device used for scuba diving.

Scuba instructor Denise Dowd goes over the diving experience with a patient and her mother while explaining the function of each device used for scuba diving.

“After learning that my skills could be used to help others, I made the choice to dedicate my life to this cause,” says Dowd. “Teaching others with disabilities how to scuba dive goes beyond just teaching them a new skill. It helps them gain confidence in their ability to do things independently.”

Throughout her career Dowd has taught people with various types of disabilities and has traveled to several locations including, Bonaire and the Cayman Islands, to teach scuba diving. She takes the time to travel and share her knowledge with anyone who is willing to learn, in an effort to help make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities.

“Being able to do something new is very important for pediatric rehab patients,” says Mariana Sena, CTRS, recreational therapist, Miller Children’s. “When they are out of school and not going to regular therapy sessions anymore it is easy for these kids to fall into a very dependent state. Their parents or guardians naturally want to help them in any way they can and they may lose sight of their capabilities. These events instill that will to be independent and make it a habit for them to seek out new adventures.”

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