Swim­ming with sharks part of doc­tor’s or­ders

Townsville Bulletin - - News - by Ryan Mathe­son ryan. mathe­son@ townsville­bul­letin. com. au

SHAR­ING the wa­ter with more than five species of sharks isn’t about to s t o p b r a v e y o u n g s t e r B y r o n Hol­man from en­joy­ing one of his favourite pas­times.

The seven-year-old is set to come face-to-face with more than 50 sharks dur­ing a dar­ing dive at Sea World on the Gold Coast as part of t he Shark Bait Kids pro­gram to­mor­row.

Young By­ron has spinal mus­cu­lar at­ro­phy, a rare ge­netic con­di­tion which causes a weak re­s­pi­ra­tory sys­tem and pro­gres­sive mus­cle de­gen­er­a­tion.

T h e Oono o n b a S t a t e S c h o o l stu­dent is eas­ily thrown off bal­ance, re­strict­ing his abil­ity to run freely like other kids his age.

He takes part in two hy­drother­apy lessons each week pro­vid­ing mus­cle growth and re­s­pi­ra­tory ben­e­fits.

By­ron’s mother Meghan said swim­ming was a wel­comed change from the lim­i­ta­tions he faced dur­ing day-to-day life.

‘‘ He feels like he can do what all the other chil­dren can do when he is in the pool, so it’s pretty spe­cial for him to be in the wa­ter,’’ she said.

‘‘ His friends are so ex­cited for him so he feels pretty spe­cial at the mo­ment.’’

The young­ster is set to get up close and per­sonal with four species of st­ingray, gi­ant shovel-nosed rays, and more than 200 species of reef fish.

The pro­gram was de­signed by Bris­bane-based char­ity Mon­troseAc­cess as a fun way of pro­vid­ing s p e e c h t h e r a p y , o c c u p a t i o n a l ther­apy and phys­io­ther­apy for chil­dren liv­ing with neu­ro­mus­cu­lar con­di­tions.

Ms Hol­man said the char­ity event was one of a kind.

‘‘ There is noth­ing like see­ing the joy in some of the kids’ faces,’’ she said.

‘‘ When they’re in the wa­ter they feel free. They feel nor­mal be­cause, in the wa­ter, they look and func­tion like ev­ery­body else.’’

By­ron was one of 12 young­sters to take part in a four-day world-first pro­gram teach­ing chil­dren with neu­ro­mus­cu­lar con­di­tions to dive at Reef HQ in Jan­uary.

Ms Hol­man said the pro­gram was con­tin­u­ing to pro­duce ben­e­fits.

‘‘ Hy­drother­apy is such an im­por­tant part of his life be­cause it helps with his legs and mus­cles.’’

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