When Jared Davis of Springville was in a car accident 13 years ago that left him paralyzed from the neck down, he struggled with his inability to do many of the things he once accomplished with ease. He never dreamed he’d one day be training to scuba dive into open waters.
Davis said the primary struggle after his accident is being an active father for his son, who is 16 and was 3 at the time of the accident. Davis’ mother, Cindy Sherron, said Davis could do some things with his son, but not everything he wanted.
“This is something that he and his son can share and do together,” Sherron said of scuba diving. “Jared’s abilities are remarkably reduced. They can carry on a conversation, or watch or play video games together, but as far as anything physical, it’s just not possible.”
She said the diving program, which is allowing Davis, Sherron and Davis’ son Colin to be trained, was a blessing for the entire family.
The program, called the Dive Pirates Foundation, is a nonprofit that is dedicated to bringing scuba diving to people with mobility disabilities.
“My Uncle Paul was a master diver to begin with,” Davis said. “So he knew of Dive Pirates and got us in touch with them.”
Sherron said she and Davis saw a television program about adaptive diving, and it piqued their interest.
“So Jared said, ‘Yeah, yeah, that’d be great,’ with no thought, really, from either one of us,” Sherron said.
She sent her brother a message, asking him if he knew of anyone who could help them out. It was then that she learned of Dive Pirates.
Dive Pirates predominantly works with disabled military, law enforcement and first responder veterans, and Sherron wasn’t sure at first if they worked with any civilians.
As chance would have it, the Dive Pirates were accepting applications at the time that Sherron found them.
She sent the foundation an email and ended up submitting an application. She elected not to tell her son, in case they didn’t qualify for the program.
“I submitted an application with really no thought that I’d ever even get a reply,” Sherron said. “But a couple of weeks later, I got an email.”
Dive Pirates then had to locate and establish a chapter close enough to Springville for Davis to receive his training.
Waterdogs Scuba & Safety, located in Clarksville, is owned and operated by ex-military personnel.
“I’ve been going to see those guys,” Davis said, “They’ve been helping me out and getting me in and out of the pool.”
Davis said adaptive diving has a very different training regimen to how someone else may learn diving.
TRAINING WITH MOBILITY ISSUES
“Mom and Colin, to get certified, had to go underwater and take their face mask off, and put it back on and clear it,” Davis said. “They had to be able to do that in open water, too.”
This type of training doesn’t fit with Davis’ disability. His mobility is restricted to his head and shoulders, so putting on and taking off a mask isn’t something he can do on his own.
“Jared has to have two adaptive trained divers with him at all times,” Sherron said. “They wanted to make certain that Jared had as close to the experience of being on a dive boat as possible, so that he can be accustomed to other individuals helping him in and out of the water, and helping him get his gear on.”
Sherron and Colin Davis were both certified, but Sherron said it’s also important for Jared Davis to learn to trust someone other than those he regularly deals with.
Davis said Waterdogs had trained people in adaptive diving before, but no one with a mobility disability as extensive as Davis’.
“Jared was really kind of a project for the guys in Clarksville,” Sherron said.
“It was a first for them, also,” Davis said.
Sherron said many people didn’t understand how unique each mobile disability can be.
“When I say quadriplegic or tetraplegic, some people don’t know that there are different levels of quadriplegia. Jared’s is very high,” Sherron said.
“His is a C4 ... really, he’s very fortunate that he’s breathing without having a tracheostomy.”
Sherron said other quadriplegics who had been trained through the Dive Pirates had movement in their arms, though they had limited dexterity.
Many of these participants could remove or clear their masks on their own, where Davis cannot.
Davis said he’s only been about 12 feet underwater so far, but that he’ll be able to get deeper when he gets out into open water.
Communication during dives became a new project.
“Jared and I both agreed, and so did the trainers, that a full face mask was necessary,” said Sherron.
The full face mask is important because of the importance of communication underwater.
Traditionally, trained divers communicate predominantly using sign language and specialized hand motions to signify everything from certain actions to directions to possible danger.
This style of communication isn’t possible for Davis, so a full mask that enables spoken conversation became a necessity.
Although Davis’ training and open water diving trip is funded through Dive Pirates, he wants to raise money for the program.
Since Davis’ disability is so extensive, it’s more expensive than some other participants.
Davis and Sherron want to help Dive Pirates by paying it forward.
Going to divepirates.org/donations/jared-davis/ will enable Post-Intelligencer readers to donate in Jared Davis’ name to a foundation that has given him an adventure to go on with his son.
“This is a freedom,” Sherron said. “It frees them of their disability.”