Type 1 Diabetics face enormous challenges with daily life and routines as well as managing ever changing glucose levels which affect mood, wellbeing and ability.
I have met many diabetics over the years who have been nervous about diving, worried about under water hypos, physical challenges that scuba demand and rightly so concerns about general wellbeing under water.
Scuba is really a sport that anyone can access. It has and can be tailored to support the needs and requirements of its participants. The guys at Oyster Divers were keen to support Sam Stimpson through his Open Water PADI course to certify him and to prove that Diabetics can dive too.
This dive school and travel centre supported planning pool and theory sessions and open water training to guide Sam onto his journey to dive safely. Offering tons of advice and guidance along the way, the centre made the process painless.
Barriers arrived when the PADI medical form needed to be signed by a Doctor after a yes was marked down for a condition that may affect him on his course. The process of contacting Doctors was extremely difficult with medical professionals passing Sam around from GP to specialist and back to Diabetic clinics. A really challenging journey to go on to get a signature to be deemed medically fit to dive.
‘Previously I got signed off by my GP to do my Discover Scuba Dive with PADI. This time the policies had changed and my GP refused to sign. I was not referred to another person to complete the form. I had to go to my diabetic care team to ask for a favour as they didn’t have a procedure in place for this kind of request at this time, or one that was clear to me as a diabetic who manages his diabetes.’ Sam Stimpson
The obvious response here is that of course not all people manage their Diabetes correctly or can have the condition and find it overwhelming and tricky to manage and at times or regularly out of their control. For this reason the importance of having the medical signed off by a specialist was not only crucial but understandable. It was a shame that it was so hard to find a person to sign it but the understanding of why it needed to be done made total sense.
Armed with a signed form the planning was underway with knowledge reviews to complete and E Learning to be studied. It was an exciting start after a long wait and Sam was eager to get going.
Sam was no stranger to the World of diving and had completed a Discover Scuba Dive some years before, the perfect entry level experience to taste the sport. He was also the son of a diver and had memories of wetsuits hanging in gardens post dive, equipment laying around the house and some very beautiful and well illustrated dive logs in his possession. It was envitable and important for Sam to get certified to connect with that part of his past and to break down the assumption that having a medical condition prevents you from doing the things you want.
The idea that an illness can stop you from learning to dive is a myth that most dive operators try to banish. Almost all dive professionals that I have met throughout my dive career have promoted scuba to everyone, an inclusive sport to explore a World that we should all have the right to adventure in.
The day arrived to start pool work and the location was in a beautiful school in Windsor. St Johns Beaumont is a stunning site with incredible grounds. The Oyster team were there and set up on our arrival. Tanks, kit, paperwork and staff prepared for the courses on the day. Sam’s Instructor Tom was welcoming, polite and funny and after meeting him several years before I was glad to get the pleasure of his company again.
‘Tom was a great instructor. I felt relaxed in his company, supported with his teaching methods and offered room to practice and refine my skills. He was a really charismatic guy with a good sense of humour and his personality made me enjoy the day far more than I had expected. Our small group had a array of skills and ages and Tom brought us together to work as buddy teams and a group of new divers all with different questions and anxieties.’ Sam Stimpson.
Sam was lead through each confined dive with support and guidance and was no different to an other learner. His diabetes didn’t affect his ability to master or deliver skills and he was at no point unwell under water. As an individual who manages his condition well his response to this was…
‘I deliberately didn’t eat carbohydrates or sugars pre dive. I lowered my basel insulin by 10% a couple of days prior to my course at the advice of my diabetic team at St Barts in London. They walked me through the potential dangers and stresses of diving related problems for Diabetics. They sent me videos, spoke to me on the phone and kept in touch via email to answer my questions.’ Sam Stimpson.
The session lasted all afternoon and by the end Sam was signed off as a referral to go and complete his course in his chosen destination of Malta, all organised by the travel team at Oyster. The battle of best dates to go, time of year and budget was carefully managed by Samantha Davey, Travel Consultant at Oyster Diving Holidays. An incredibly patient and thorough woman.
The course and this article was also heavily supported by Mark Murphy, Master Scuba Diver Trainer and Owner of Oyster who was receptive to us writing about Diabetic Type 1’s and scuba. A big thank you to him for his help.