Phew! We made it. One year down… a lifetime of adventure to go.
The week surrounding Nick’s one-year anniversary has been extremely challenging. There are two overwhelming elements making it feel like we are swimming upstream: his phantom pain is out of control and reality of the permanence of his injuries is setting in.
I am so grateful that we decided to charter a boat and celebrate with our friends and family for the one-year anniversary. Being in good company and living a familiar life of adventure is surely the only thing that kept Nick semi-sane. He wasn’t himself this weekend. He was emotionally tattered and hanging on by a thread. I give him a gold star and A+ for effort. He’s stronger than I imagined.
Don’t get me wrong, he had a blast! With 23 friends on board how could he NOT? We had a celebration dinner the night before, a below-deck-bunk-bed slumber party, delicious meals GALORE, and several peaceful, pain-free SCUBA dives. It was ridiculous – in a good way! So many laughs, lots of sunshine, and at least 3 epic naps for Nick.
Despite a month of preparation and planning for the dives, there were a few technicalities we didn’t think of. The gear-up was not pre-planned. In fact, if it wasn’t for our friend Kate, I don’t know what Nick would have done. She took great care to make sure Nick made it in the water safely, because, well, I was already in the water! Ooops. Next dive trip we will definitely be discussing our needs with the deck hands ahead of time and creating a plan of action to make the gear-up go more smoothly.
Nick’s entrance was easy, he just fell backward off the side of the boat. And once underwater, his pain was nonexistent! We dove for 50 minutes on the first go, followed by our friend John with a Go-Pro. Nick opted to go without fins for the first dive and immediately realized that his weak legs were making it much more difficult to maneuver underwater than ever before. We zigzagged through the towering kelp forest, saw an abundance of beautiful sea life, got a little lost, and started feeling the chill of 60 degree water toward the end of the dive. The visibility was decent and the overcast skies cleared to make it a beautiful day.
It was so incredible to see Nick underwater again. I was briefly reminded of that same day exactly one year before. Never in a million years did I think we would be SCUBA diving so soon. And never mind the diving part, Nick walked around on the boat the whole day. The wheelchair was on board but rarely used – there was nowhere to wheel around, it was too cramped. He walked up and down many stairs, and even climbed up to the top deck for a nap with the girls. The boat had a wench that could lift him out of the water, but do you think he used it? Not a chance. He climbed out of the boat on his own both times. He really is my hero.
He gave every ounce of himself to having a good experience on Sunday. When we got home, he slept for 11 hours, and then took a 2 hour nap, not actually getting out of bed until 4pm (and that was only to have a meal). He was sore and exhausted. We joked that Monday never even happened. He woke on Tuesday feeling like a champion though!
With the success of our trip, we are beginning to think ahead to the next dives. We want to dive the wrecks in San Diego, the Coronado Islands off the coast of Northern Baja, and the Santa Barbara Islands where the sea lions gather. Who’s in?