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Volunteer divers provide pediatric rehabilitation patients ‘freedom’ with ability to scuba dive

‘It’s a sense of accomplishment for my boys,’ parent says.

Handicapped+Scuba+Association+instructor+Bryan+Boxter+%28left%29+checks+in+with+Carlos+Tizcare%C3%B1o+%28right%29+during+a+scuba-diving+lesson+as+part+of+a+swimming-rehabilitation+program+at+Miller+Children%E2%80%99s+%26+Women%E2%80%99s+Hospital+Sept.+22.+
Handicapped Scuba Association instructor Bryan Boxter (left) checks in with Carlos Tizcareño (right) during a scuba-diving lesson as part of a swimming-rehabilitation program at Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Sept. 22.

Handicapped Scuba Association instructor Bryan Boxter (left) checks in with Carlos Tizcareño (right) during a scuba-diving lesson as part of a swimming-rehabilitation program at Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Sept. 22.

Photo by Lissette Mendoza | Signal Tribune

Photo by Lissette Mendoza | Signal Tribune

Handicapped Scuba Association instructor Bryan Boxter (left) checks in with Carlos Tizcareño (right) during a scuba-diving lesson as part of a swimming-rehabilitation program at Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Sept. 22.

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Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach and the Handicapped Scuba Association (HSA) teamed up to provide pediatric-rehabilitation patients ranging from ages 6 to 17 the opportunity to learn how to scuba dive Sept. 22.

For patients with disabilities, including spina bifida, traumatic brain injuries and neuromuscular disorders, the scuba lessons provide the patients a therapeutic diving experience by utilizing the indoor rehabilitation pool on the hospital campus, according to the hospital’s press release Sept 19.

Patients were allowed to swim freely or with assistance from certified divers, who brought the diving gear for them.

Mariana Sena, a recreational therapist who has worked at Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital for more than 20 years, organized the program, which has been running for eight years.

She mentioned that the scuba lessons are held two to three times per year at the Miller Children’s & Women’s indoor rehabilitation pool.

Photo by Lissette Mendoza | Signal Tribune
Handicapped Scuba Association instructor Rosemary Kidd assists a patient during a scuba-diving lesson as part of a swimming rehabilitation-program At Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Sept. 22.

“I think the water is an incredible medium for these kids,” Sena told the Signal Tribune Saturday. “It gives them a sense of control, freedom, self-esteem. These kids went through trauma. It’s a wonderful feeling to see their reintegration back into doing something that’s different.”

Dominique Quevedo, who has two sons in the program ages 10 and 12, agreed with Sena that the scuba lessons are beneficial and a self-esteem booster for patients.

“It’s a sense of accomplishment for my boys,” Quevedo said. “They’ve been in the program for a couple of years and the instructors are familiar with the kids. […] They’re confident, it’s a great environment, they’ve blossomed.”

The diving instructors are all certified with a special license to work one-on-one with patients who have disabilities, Sena said.

Ana Monge– whose son Carlos, 17, is in the program– said she has also seen the benefit of the scuba lessons.

“It’s his element,” she said. “He likes swimming. Last year, he couldn’t go because of aspiration issues but now his coordination and confidence have improved. It’s made it so that he feels normal again.”

Patient Seth Nakamoto told the Signal Tribune that he began scuba diving three years ago as part of his rehabilitation. Nakamoto suffered from pneumonia, which rendered him unable to speak or walk.

“I didn’t start [scuba diving] until I could walk again,” Nakamoto said. “I knew how to swim, but not scuba dive. It’s fun, it’s easy.”

As for his future plans with the new set of skills, he said, “I want to go scuba diving in Hawaii.”

His mom, Kim Nakamoto, told the Signal Tribune that “He looks forward to the events. He’s advanced so much, [and] he loves the water. It’s a wonderful program. We’re fortunate and blessed for this program.”

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Volunteer divers provide pediatric rehabilitation patients ‘freedom’ with ability to scuba dive