Wounded, injured and sick forces veterans have pushed themselves to their limits by learning to scuba dive.
The PADI Open Water Diver course, organised and funded by Help for Heroes Plymouth Recovery Centre and run by Plymouth Diving Centre, took place last week.
Theory classes and pool sessions were held at the charity’s centre in Devonport Naval Base and open water training was at Vobster Quay, an inland diving centre in Somerset who offered complimentary entry to the group.
For some of the group of six the accomplishment was far beyond what they believed they could achieve when you take into account their medical conditions.
Kelly Hart, 34 from Plymouth, was serving in the Army when she was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder that triggered a series of strokes. For the past ten years Kelly has been learning to live with her condition and the repercussions of her brain injury which includes visual impairment and memory problems.
Kelly said: “I thought the course was enlightening, very professional and great fun. A few years ago I never thought I’d be able to do the activities that I’ve had the chance to do with Help for Heroes; especially scuba diving. Since my brain injury I didn't think I could retain, process and remember the things I've learnt, let alone actually dive when I'm visually impaired. The Plymouth Diving Centre instructors really enforce you with trust in themselves, the equipment and a self-belief in yourself. It reinforces that anything is possible.”
It is the first time Help for Heroes has run a scuba diving course solely for veterans as part of its national Sports Recovery programme. Previous courses have been as part of Battle Back; an MOD initiative for serving personnel. The Plymouth centre is bidding to become the charity’s national Maritime Activities Centre utilising the city’s access to the sea and rich water sports offer.
Army veteran Simon Dangerfield obtained a spinal injury when on exercise in Canada causing limited mobility and severe pain. He travelled from Milton Keynes to take part in the course having taken part in a try dive in Plymouth after hearing about the opportunity through his local Help for Heroes Recovery Centre, Chavasse VC House, in Colchester.
Simon commented: “The course was absolutely great and the instructors from Plymouth Diving Centre were amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed every day. Help for Heroes has lifted my expectations of what I can do to new heights. Three months ago I never thought I would be able to go diving; I’d certainly like to carry on.”
Huw Ingram, from Plymouth, added: “It was excellently challenging. Great fun with good people. The first time in the water was exhilarating. I’d definitely like to carry on diving. Help for Heroes has given me a whole new lease of life with the opportunities they offer. It’s given me my future back.”
At 75, Peter Black from Plymouth was the oldest on the course but he did not let that set him back and is already talking about when he can continue diving, planning on joining Plymouth Diving Centre’s regular pool sessions to get some practise in.
“The entire week was absolutely superb thanks to Help for Heroes and Plymouth Diving Centre. I can’t say enough about it. I’d love to see even more people on the course next time and I’m going to carry on training to move forward.”
Help for Heroes has been involved with Sports Recovery for six years, and in the past year alone has put on 300 events across 50 different sports enabling over 1,800 wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans to take part in adaptive sports.
The work that Help for Heroes is doing in Sports Recovery is only made possible through donations from the people who support the charity. To find out more about becoming a ‘Friend of Help for Heroes’ through regular giving, supporting the 75,000 British men and women who may be left injured or sick following wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as identified in new statistical research, visit www.helpforheroes.org.uk.