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Deep Water Adventure.

WATER DOESN'T just keep people cool, water beats gravity. Supported by water, actions that require great effort on land become easier. This is the basis for therapeutic aquatics, in which people get into a pool to stretch and strengthen parts of the body that are underused or stressed because of disabilities. But it also means--with ordinary equipment and a little training--the underwater wilderness is extraordinarily accessible. The woman in the picture at right is quadriplegic. She has no voluntary control over anything below the neck, yet with the help of a dive buddy trained by the Handicapped Scuba Association International, she swims freely.

Jeanne Megel of Colorado Springs not only dives on her own, she swims with the sharks. "The trick is stretching your limits, frequently but gently," she wrote to InsideMS.

"When I was diagnosed 15 years ago, what I heard most was, `You can't do that, you have MS.' For several years, I sat at home, rested, and took care of myself. The better care I took, the more depressed I became.

"Then I took up scuba diving. After getting my open water certification, I asked my doctor to sign a release for me to take the advanced class.

"`You can't dive, you have MS,' was the reply. `But I've already certified!' I said. He signed the letter. One year later I had certified as a professional dive master.

"I didn't bother to ask my doctor about the course in shark feeding. I just went. I spent a week feeding sharks in the Caribbean as part of an environmental education program, and now I teach volunteer classes on sharks and reef ecology."

Jeanne Megel's mission is to help people understand how essential sharks are to healthy oceans--and to see them as beautiful creatures. Being a shark feeder will interest a rare minority. Her invitation to consider underwater adventure has wider appeal. So does her conclusion: "You don't live your life any less because of MS, you only have to live it differently."

Winston Davis is a freelance writer.
COPYRIGHT 2000 National Multiple Sclerosis Society
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Title Annotation:scuba diving and multiple sclerosis
Author:Davis, Winston
Publication:Inside MS
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2000
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