Diveheart gives hope to spinal injury patient to move again

Teo (left) shows Freddick how to use the diving equipment.

KUCHING: Freddick Jilam, 26, lost mobility partially due to spinal injury resulting from a road accident about two years ago. He was bedridden for five months following the accident in 2016.

He misses the ability to be totally on his feet again. Though he has been wheelchair-bound after the five months, Freddick takes some small steps occasionally. His hope of being able to move again was relived yesterday with the help of Diveheart Malaysia programme coordinator for East Malaysia, Ernest Teo.

“I feel okay. I want to dive again,” said Freddick after a nearly half-hour dive in the swimming pool at Stampark, Taman BDC here.

Freddick is seen with his parents Jilam and Dohim.

He added he felt light during the dive and that he could feel that he can move freely again. He was accompanied by his parents Jilam Doyuh, 59, and Dohim Ase, 49, during the brief interview with reporters.

Speaking to the press following the dive, Teo said Freddick told him that he felt different in the water, adding: “He said he suddenly felt light.”

He said Diveheart Malaysia has prevailed for four years and counting while Diveheart East Malaysia is still a baby. He said the session yesterday was a tryout and if Freddick is up to it, the organisation can train him as a scuba diver.

“This has been done in Peninsular Malaysia with three individuals; one with a condition worse than Freddick’s. When a person can do more things, the mind feels much stronger. We plan to make it into a long-term programme,” he said.

Teo added that the programme can be expanded to cover other parts of East Malaysia as well as Brunei and Kalimantan to help the community with disabilities. In order to sustain the programme, he said Diveheart needs volunteers, who are also certified divers, and funding.

According to him, Diveheart does not receive direct donations but through proper channelling such as funding five sessions for a candidate with disabilities.

“People pay directly to the course, not Diveheart. We welcome corporations to pledge donations as part of their CSR (corporate social responsibility) too.” Teo pointed out that Diveheart requires funding to purchase diving equipment for the programme.

As for volunteers, he said they are in the process of building up a Diveheart Borneo Volunteers group to facilitate the programme. He disclosed that the tryout cost about RM300.

In future, he said, Diveheart is looking at collaborating with either the Pandelela Aquatics Centre in Petra Jaya or Kuching South City Council (MBKS) Swimming Pool at Jalan Padungan to run the programme as these centres provide a more conducive environment for the disabled.

Earlier, Jilam told reporters that he wants to see his second child healthy and able to walk again.

“It is my hope to see him recover as he wants to go out and work again,” said the pensioner from Kpg Kopit, Siniawan, Bau near here. He said even though Freddick can now walk a bit on his own, the maximum time he managed was 10 minutes. He added that Freddick worked as an air-con technician prior to the accident.

Freddick, assisted by Teo (left) and others, makes the ‘water entry’.

As part of the recovery process, Freddick undergoes physiotherapy at Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) twice a month. Two medical practitioners from SGH also assisted at the dive yesterday.

Prior to the dive, Teo said Diveheart programme aims to instil hope for individuals with disabilities.

“We want to make people with disabilities feel that they can do it, because not everyone can dive.”

Freddick is the first candidate chosen by Diveheart to go through the programme. Teo said the programme reaches out not just to persons with immobility but also those who are visually impaired or with speech difficulty.

“We hope to see some changes and help more people with disabilities,” he added.

Diveheart is a global organisation headquartered in Illinois, Chicago. It has international chapters in the United Kingdom, Australia, China, Malaysia, South America and more.

Diveheart is volunteer-driven with the exception of some part-time staff.The vast majority of its funding comes from sponsors, donors and friends who are committed to the programme. It focuses on building confidence, independence and self-esteem in children, adults and veterans with disabilities through scuba diving, scuba therapy and related activities.

To pledge donations or sponsor the programme, contact Teo at 012-889 2336.

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