When the opportunity was presented to me during my stay at Sargood on the Northern beaches of New South Wales, I signed up straight away and they informed me I was able to have my travel buddy join me (she has the best job in the world!).
I was extremely fortunate to go swimming in Hawaii (see my previous post about this) but I was still a rookie in the water.
Before we went snorkelling, I had many conversations with the staff at Sargood to ensure that wearing a wetsuit would not effect pressure care, stoma and the use of my drainage bag. They reassured me that this would be completely safe and manageable. The staff are well versed in dealing with people who have a spinal cord injury.
I also spoke with Coloplast before I did any water activities to make sure that my colostomy and stoma would be well cared for during the experiences. They let me know that I needed to use protective tape around the base plate to protect the stoma. After getting the all clear from them I was ready to go!
After a short drive in an accessible vehicle from Sargood to Shelly Beach, we started to prepare for our adventure in a protected cove. I was extremely excited and looking forward to seeing how I would be fitted into a wetsuit which to be honest, was a lot easier and quicker than I expected.
To do this, I was transferred from my chair to a bench with protective mats on it for pressure care. Two staff members assisted me getting into the wetsuit – a process which took about 15 minutes – not too shabby!
Then I was transferred into a beach wheelchair and wheeled across the beach into the water far enough until the buoyancy of the wet suit allowed me to float on my back and be slid out of the chair by the staff who are there to assist and explain what happens. Although the temperature of the water was quite cold, being October in NSW, the wetsuit kept me quite warm luckily. I could not believe the wetsuits are so buoyant and I was able to float (I am not known for my buoyancy). Everyone was very patient with me as I took my time with the whole concept.
Upon entering the water, I needed about ten minutes to get acquainted with using a mask, snorkel and floating facedown in the water, with the assistance from Sebastian.
I will be the first to admit I am a control freak and to be in a position where I could not use my body to correct myself was incredibly stressful, but I went with the flow and was able to enjoy the awesome adventure.
With a little help from my friend and the extra noodle under my chest, I was snorkelling in no time and I was determined to see marine life! After nearly 3 consecutive minutes of snorkelling, I was able to see a fish and by then I was worn out. I could not believe how peaceful it is when snorkelling you can just zone out and completely relax.
The overall experience in the water was around thirty minutes.
Getting out of the water was the reverse, the beach wheelchair came into the water and the staff wheeled me back onto the shore.