Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Pushing through fears and diving past the impossible

Although physically limited, three young people are determined to prove to themselves and society that they are more than their disability.

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When Ahmad Nazri was 14, he discovered he had bone cancer in a diagnosis that would change the course of his entire life.

In a bid to curb the spread of the disease, his doctors amputated one of his legs, leaving him physically limited in ways the teenager had never imagined.

But throughout the ordeal, he clung to the knowledge that he was more than just his disability, refusing to give in to doubt.

Now 31, Nazri has made a name for himself as a Paralympic basketball player, and enjoys trying new things.

“I have climbed Mount Kinabalu in Sabah twice now with only one leg,” he said in a recent interview with MalaysiaNow.

“Then, I tried scuba diving.”

Ahmad Nazri enjoys a scuba diving session at Dive Heart at the Tropica Aman club in Kota Kemuning, Klang.

For Nazri, this opened up a world of new experiences and left him keen to explore more. In 2018, he obtained his open water scuba diving licence and now, he dives in the open sea.

While this is an activity that even some so-called able-bodied people find daunting, Nazri relishes the challenge.

Being able to participate in such extreme sports is, for him, proof of the thin line between the impossible and the possible.

Nooraishah Arshad, who likewise discovered that she had bone cancer as a young teenager, also overcame her physical limits to become a Paralympic fencer.

Now wheelchair-bound, her goal is to change the way society normally thinks of disabled people.

A trainer explains the scuba diving process to a batch of new students at Dive Heart.

Like Nazri, she discovered a love of diving and possesses a licence for advanced open water diving. With this achievement safely under her belt, her next target is to obtain the far more challenging rescue diver’s licence.

Although many doubt her ability to reach this level as a physically disabled person, she is going all out to prove them wrong.

“We don’t have any amputees in Malaysia who have advanced to the level of rescue diver, which is one of the reasons I want to take on this task,” she said.

“I want to be able to help my friends when we are underwater, and I want to bring my husband along with me to see the beauty of the sea.”

For Nazri and Nooraishah, their aim in taking up scuba diving was to prove that they could participate in the sport as well as the next person.

Nooraishah Arshad arrives for a scuba diving class with her husband.

Norisah Bahrom, meanwhile, just wanted to face up to her own fears in life. She suffers from paraplegia, with both her legs permanently damaged due to a spinal cord injury.

“I have had a fear of being underwater since I was a child,” she told MalaysiaNow, adding that her fear only increased after she became disabled.

“But I told myself that this is a chance that I need to grab. I had to learn how to keep this fear away, and to train myself to be more courageous.”

This was a decision that she never regretted. Although she is unable to walk on land, in the water her movements are different and she feels both free and independent.

Nur Zafirah, a physiologist at the University of Malaya Medical Centre, volunteers at Dive Heart, the centre attended by these athletes.

She said she decided to volunteer there as she believed she could use her knowledge to help disabled people dive into opportunities outside of her workplace.

Trainers swim beside Norisah Bahrom, who lost the use of her legs due a spinal cord injury.

“The most vulnerable people I’ve seen as a physiologist are those who became paralysed as a result of an accident.

“They can’t accept the fact that they are unable to use parts of their body like they normally would.”

She said the challenge is to motivate them and help them regain their independence.

“There is nothing impossible to do, not even for disabled people,” she added.

This is a maxim that Nooraishah firmly believes. Despite losing her left leg to cancer when she was just 14, she is bound and determined to accomplish her goals.

“When I took my licence for advanced open water diving, I had to dive to a maximum depth of 30m or 100 feet,” she said.

“That is deep enough for ordinary people but not for me. I want to go deeper and further. I believe I can do that.”

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