My name is Lawton O’Brien. I am a senior at Hernando High School. I have been an athlete all my life. I have been on the swim team since 8th grade, swimming competitively since 9th grade and running cross country. I made it to North Half my freshman year of high school and started training with the Memphis Tigers Swim club as well as the Minden Stingrays in Lousiana.
June 23, 2015, my life changed. My hopes and dreams and future shattered with the bones in my neck. I had a diving accident and shattered my C5 and fracturing my C6 and C7. I was instantly paralyzed.
I had a very long road to recovery. I spent 2 and a half weeks in pediatric Intensive Care was then flown to Atlanta to the Shepherd Center, which is a rehab facility for people with spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries. After 4 months in therapy, I started to regain slow movements. They told me my diagnosis is as an incomplete quadriplegic. Incomplete means there is hope for some recovery.
I came home from the Shepherd center, in October, in a wheelchair. I was unable to move my left leg or left hand. My right side is ok, except I can’t feel much on that side. By December, I graduated to a walker and was being fitted for an exosym device to help lift my foot and thigh to give me more independence.
Fast forward to now, my senior year of high school. I was able to swim with my team. It felt great to dive into the pool and swim again, although, it was hard for me to not be on the same competitive level I was before my accident.
My teammates and the spectators made every swim meet exciting. They always cheered me on.
During my therapy I went to a camp for kids with spinal cord injuries and was introduced to scuba diving. I wasn’t sure I could do it with my injuries but once I was in the water it felt natural and easy. I was actually surprised that I could do it, just slightly modified. Because of my new found love for scuba diving I achieved my adaptive diving certification through the Dive Pirates organization. Training with Randy Wright of The Dive Shop, Memphis, TN