David’s un­der­wa­ter ther­apy pro­gram helps hun­dreds of peo­ple with spe­cial needs

Woman's World - - Start your week with a smile! - — Marti At­toun

When a brain tu­mor left his son par­a­lyzed, avid scuba diver David Lawrence dove right in and cre­ated an un­der­wa­ter phys­i­cal ther­apy pro­gram that helped his son—and hun­dreds of other peo­ple with spe­cial needs. But he quickly dis­cov­ered that the joy in help­ing oth­ers was the most heal­ing part of all

David and Kim Lawrence sat be­side their 11-yearold son’s hos­pi­tal bed, their hearts flood­ing with a mix of joy and sor­row.

The Win­ter Gar­den, Florida, cou­ple thanked God that doc­tors had been able to re­move the tu­mor from David Jr.’s brain. But the surgery had left their lit­tle boy par­a­lyzed from the neck down. And doc­tors couldn’t say if he would ever re­gain use of his arms and legs.

Gaz­ing up at his par­ents, David Jr.’s face was clouded with sad­ness and fear.

“I don’t want to be in a wheel­chair for my whole life,” he stam­mered, his eyes full of tears.

“I know, buddy,” his fa­ther choked. “And I prom­ise, I’ll give it ev­ery­thing I’ve got, ev­ery day of my life, to make sure that doesn’t hap­pen.”

“Love cures peo­ple—both the ones who give it and the ones who it.” re­ceive — KARL A. MENNINGER

An amaz­ing idea

From that moment on, help­ing his son walk again be­came David Sr.’s sole fo­cus. He was at David Jr.’s side, of­fer­ing en­cour­age­ment, as he be­gan in­ten­sive re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion. Hear­ing his dad say, “You can do this!” helped the boy push through the pain and ex­haus­tion. And after a year and a half, he’d mirac­u­lously re­gained use of the right side of his body.

Though thrilled with his progress, David Sr. was de­ter­mined to help his son get back to 100%. And that sum­mer dur­ing a scuba div­ing trip, David Sr. was struck with an idea that changed ev­ery­thing.

He re­al­ized that on land, with the pull of grav­ity, David Jr.’s left arm and leg were as heavy as lead. But un­der wa­ter, they’d be as light as feath­ers.

“If I work with him un­der wa­ter, maybe we can stim­u­late the ar­eas of his brain that control move­ment,” David Sr. ex­cit­edly told Kim. “It’s worth a try!”

Hope floats

David Sr., a cer­ti­fied scuba diver with many years of ex­pe­ri­ence, be­gan tak­ing his son to a pool, where they strapped on a tank and mask. After they were sub­merged, David Sr. would ex­er­cise his son’s limbs.

And just as he’d hoped and prayed, in time, David Jr. be­gan to move on his own. Soon, he was even feel­ing sen­sa­tions in his left side and able to grasp ob­jects with his left hand. It’s work­ing! they mar­veled. If scuba ther­apy could work for his son, maybe it could help other peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, David Sr. thought. So in 2009, he opened The Scuba Gym, where, for a min­i­mal fee, he has helped hun­dreds of peo­ple make amaz­ing strides.

Suf­fer­ing from hy­po­to­nia, a con­di­tion char­ac­ter­ized by poor mus­cle tone, 17-year-old Tyler Barnes was too weak to carry a bag of gro­ceries. But within six months of start­ing scuba ther­apy, Tyler was able to hoist his 35-pound scuba tank on his own. And with each ses­sion, he grew stronger.

Peo­ple with cere­bral palsy, mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis and Down syn­drome have im­proved their mus­cle strength and co­or­di­na­tion. And the quiet calm that stu­dents ex­pe­ri­ence un­der wa­ter has helped peo­ple with autism cope with the stim­uli they en­counter in ev­ery­day life.

The pro­gram has even helped sev­eral wheelchair­bound par­tic­i­pants—in­clud­ing David Jr.!—to walk again.

To­day, along with at­tend­ing col­lege, 22-year-old David Jr. is fully re­cov­ered and an in­struc­tor at The Scuba Gym. “It’s a bless­ing to help oth­ers change their lives.” David Sr. echoes his son. “I am so thank­ful for my son’s re­cov­ery, but be­cause of what he went through, we are now able to help so many oth­ers,” says David Sr. “I am truly hum­bled, it’s a bless­ing!”

“When we stay hope­ful and push our lim­its, amaz­ing things hap­pen,” says David Sr., with his scuba stu­dents.

A team of vol­un­teers help the two Davids, cen­ter, work scuba ther­apy mir­a­cles!

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