Scuba diving: Anyone can do it - - Columbia, South Carolina

Scuba diving: Anyone can do it

By Jackie Faye - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - When scuba diving first came around, it was thought to be a sport for men and the strong, but the face of scuba has changed quite a bit over the years.

"I think I was looking for things to do that would keep me moving, and I love the water and I enjoy swimming," explained Susan Aude, a former WIS anchor who hasn't been able to use her legs since an accident in college.

But she says she doesn't let her handicap slow her down. Since getting away from the news desk, she's taken up a whole new set of hobbies.

"If you're in a wheelchair, you're always thinking creatively and 'well, I can't do it this way, so how can I do it?'" Aude explained.

She wanted to scuba dive, a sport that takes some leg work, literally. So she started making some calls.

"I said 'have you ever taught anybody in a wheelchair how to scuba dive, someone that can't use their legs?' and this British voice said 'no, but I'd love to,'" Susan recalled.

That British voice was Lucy Kreiling with Columbia Scuba.

It was Aude's call that encouraged Kreiling to get certified to train the handicapped, and to do that, Kreiling had to feel what it's like.

"We were put through all the different disabilities that a diver may have," says Kreiling.

Kreiling had to put a cloth in her goggles so she couldn't see. The blind can't do the normal underwater sign language. They speak with touch. For example, pointing up or down on a person's hand signals where to go in the water.

Kreiling had to tape her legs and arms to feel what it is like to be paraplegic, quadriplegic or amputee. Kreiling says the tricky part with this handicap and scuba diving is your body wants to float. She uses weights inside a belt to help.

Kreiling says if a diver loses their mouthpiece underwater, they usually grab it with their right arm. She has to train people who can only use their left arm to reach for their emergency mouthpiece. For people that can't use either arm, Kreiling says an instructor would insert the mouthpiece.

"If you can get clearance from your doctor to dive, we'll take you diving," Kreiling said.

Looking back, Susan remembers what she felt when she was told she would never be able to walk again.

"I thought my world was over. I knew nobody in a wheelchair. I never thought about being disabled, if you thought anything about it, it was I just wouldn't want to live. How could you possibly deal with something like that?" asked Aude.

In time, she learned not to just deal with her handicap, but embrace it.

"I do think, in my own case, and in a lot of people's situations, they are realizing being in a wheelchair doesn't mean the end to being active, athletic and involved," says Aude.

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