There could be hope for paraplegics in the form of diving as Cody Unser discovered a tingling sensation in her legs for the first time since she became paralysed from the waist down when she was 12 years old.
Now 24 years old, Unser became paralysed after being diagnosed with transverse myelitis disease and when she was 13 she launched the Cody Unser First Step Foundation which is dedicated to raising money and awareness for people affected by spinal paralysis.
At 13, she also became a certified scuba diver after her brother, Al, talked her into taking up scuba diving as a sport and hobby. Two years later she had launched Cody’s Great Scuba Adventures with the help of her mother, Shelley, which helps individuals with disabilities receive their scuba diving certification and enjoy scuba diving holidays across the world.
After scuba diving 100 feet underwater, Unser noticed tingling in her legs. She said: “I couldn’t believe I had gotten some feeling back.
“I told my doctors, and they were a little bit interested. Now they can’t stop talking about it.”
Earlier this year, doctors at the John Hopkins Hospital and the Kennedy Krieger Institute carried out a small study, that was funded by Unsers foundation, in the Cayman Islands, one of the most beautiful scuba diving destinations in the world. The study showed that after just a few days of scuba diving, the paraplegics showed improvements that would normally occur after months of therapy.
The findings are offering hope for paralysed people all over the world and with further research new therapies could be introduced to improve the quality of life for many people who have spinal injuries or diseases.
Dr. Adam Kaplin, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Hopkins’ School of Medicine, said: “There is no treatment for people with chronic spinal cord injury, and many believe once you’ve lost the communication between the brain and the extremities, there is nothing you can do to restore lost function.
“What we saw in the water strongly suggests there is some scuba-facilitated restoration of neurological and psychological function in paraplegics.”
The study also showed that scuba diving activities can help people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, bladder control problems and much more.