Matthew Johnston, a wheelchair user with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, harnesses a distinct love for scuba diving. Ocean Opportunity helped turn his dream of exploring the deep sea into a reality, and after 3 years of hard work, Matthew achieved his goal of becoming the world's first ventilator-dependent diver.
"So many wonderful scenes, it's kind of where God shows off," Matthew said describing his time underneath the water admiring the ocean.
Being from Minnesota, five states from the nearest ocean, his aspiration seemed even more distant from an early age. Around grade school, changes to Matthew's body began to happen as he became progressively weaker from the disease. He began using a wheelchair, and his parents began taking on the roles of caregivers. Matthew also had a trach placed to stabilize his daily pulmonary needs.
"You gotta live your life as best you can. You only get one life and it's not going to last that long," is the motto that Matthew abides by.
Matthew's love for the ocean continued to grow, and he did not let his limited mobility or breathing requirements derail his dream to scuba dive.
"People say you can't do something, I like to prove them wrong."
After getting a diving company and coach on board, a prototype for a diving suit was made for all his adaptive gear he'd need to maintain stability under the sea.
He then left the Minnesota lakes for the Florida Keys to put his knowledge, training and ambitions to the test. "I have to, it's my destiny," he proclaimed.
His family, coaches, team and strangers now turned friends, all rallied around as everything was put to the test in the tropical waters. His first day was overshadowed with nerves, equipment malfunctions and fatigue, but the second attempt he persevered and succeeded.
Matthew made a 15-minute dive underwater, the first ever with a ventilator.
"It was the first time I felt great in 11 years..weightless."
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