LifeWaters offers scuba diving and scuba certifications as part of recreational water therapy. The non-profit organization improves the lives of disabled veterans with a dedicated staff of volunteers, including Spinal Cord Injury therapists, doctors, nurses, veterans, and civilians.
Bill Chase is a Air Force Vietnam-era veteran who served from 1973-1978. While stationed in Hawaii, he learned to dive and then later became a certified diver. In 2016, after a successful engineering career, Chase was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. While at a VA therapy appointment, the therapist mentioned scuba diving, and then referred Chase to LifeWaters.
Forced retirement opens new door
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Chase was forced to retire after the diagnosis and soon sought assistance from Paralyzed Veterans of America for help in filing claims for VA benefits and support at the St. Louis VA. Approximately 700 to 900 veterans with ALS are served annually by PVA to obtain their VA healthcare benefits.
"I am always excited to be involved helping a veteran's bucket list wish come true!" said PVA Vice President and LifeWaters Advanced Scuba Diver, Hack Albertson. "It was an absolute honor to meet and dive with Bill Chase and his family."
Albertson credits the LifeWaters adaptive scuba training that allowed him to dive in over 200 locations around the world. "I love being a member of LifeWaters and [being] an Advanced Scuba Diver. I was even blessed to dive Pearl Harbor on December 7th while conducting an oil study for the U.S. National Park Service. I can never thank LifeWaters enough for the opportunities and experiences diving has given me."
“Blown away by kindness” at LifeWaters
LifeWaters offers different services depending on needs, desires and skill level. They have amputee scuba diving, disabled veteran scuba diving and other scuba diving programs.
"ALS progression is different for everyone. In my case, I have no leg motion, my arms and lungs are affected. I've recently lost some ground with my lungs, so when I dive I now use a full-face mask because it's easier to breathe," said Chase.
Chase was surprised that he was eligible for adaptive diving. He recently completed the HERO dive with his family at the Epcot Center Aquarium at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Chase has even gotten closer to his family while they trained for their scuba adventure.
"If I were in a different physical state, I wouldn't hesitate to become part of this group. The dive itself was awesome, in spite of my physical limitations. My family and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience," he said.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.