The ocean has always been a big part of my life. Growing up on the island of St. Croix and surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, I knew from a very young age that I was going to study marine science. Like most kids, I imagined I would work with dolphins and that I’d create a marine adventure park on St. Croix. But life had different plans. It so happened that my focus throughout college and in my career has been on sea turtles, coral reef conservation, and sustainable fisheries instead. The thing that remained constant, however, was my love for the ocean in its vast entirety.
I am that kid from St. Croix who was fortunate to have a scuba club at his local public high school. I grew up diving and it became a big part of my life regardless of where I was in the world for work or for fun: from Cuba to Hawaii, though China, Australia, the Solomon Islands, Greece and more. In fact, prior to my near death experience and becoming a quadruple amputee, my last time in scuba gear was at Ras Mohammad Marine Protected Area in Egypt, the Red Sea on December 31, 2018.
The second half of 2019 was beyond challenging. My life took a drastic turn after I barely survived sepsis, was airlifted to South Florida, and eventually required amputations on part or all four limbs. I was assured by my doctors then that I would play tennis again, dance again, and, most importantly, that I’d dive again. That was all I needed to hear to get to work. Walk, run, dance, dive! I received my first leg in January 2020, my first leg for running/tennis/pickle ball in the Fall of 2020, and have already participated in two dance workshops. Most recently, I received my diving leg in December of 2021 and final re-experienced the magical world beneath the waves!
It was a small group of us last December in The Bahamas - Krista, Alex, Will, Craig and I. We first navigated to Nari Nari to get skills out of the way. Then it was on! We tied to a mooring at Ray of Hope. I remembered the site vividly as it’s where I went diving for my 30th birthday (a few years ago). Just like that, I was in heaven. A shipwreck, a reef wall, a turtle, lots of sharks, good dive buddies and, most importantly, my prosthetic leg worked exactly as I needed and it did not slip off (can you imagine)!
I am grateful for my PIMS family and for Brett, Jesse, and my Hanger Prosthetics family as they all helped to get me diving again. It felt amazing to be back in my element. For many, the trauma that I experienced a few years ago is too much to fathom. Giving up would be the easy road. But, for me, giving up was never an option. To be alive is great, but the experiences that I am able to create on this journey is what makes this thing called life so beautiful. And, while I am personally driven to thoroughly enjoy this new chapter of my life, I remain surrounded by an amazing support system of family and friends that make the mountain appear less steep and the victories (both big and small) more enjoyable.
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