As divers and freedivers, we all share the same passion for life underwater, the freedom and independence to explore and enjoy new experiences, sharing an appreciation and love of the ocean and the community of friends and buddies we meet and/or admire along the way. This blog is an unashamed request for help from each and every one of you following Gemma’s accident.
For those of you who do not know Gemma Smith, she started diving in 2007 and has been diving professionally for almost a decade. She has logged over 2000 dives in caves and open water, using both open and closed circuit equipment.
She completed her diver training through the PADI system and in 2012 she qualified as a PADI instructor and began teaching full time, working her way up to Master SCUBA Diver Trainer and earning Elite Instructor status in 2015. She is now an Ambassador for PADI, specifically promoting women in diving, as well as archeological diving.
Gemma has received two PADI commendations for teaching excellence.
I know Gemma through teaching at Vobster as that was where she started her diving career. She also did her RAID Freediver Course with us a few years ago to add to her diving qualifications.
You can find out more about Gemma at the end of this blog, but suffice to say she is an incredible woman and an incredible diver. However, following a horrific accident, Gemma is now facing the biggest challenge of her life. In one moment she lost the ability to earn money, the ability to walk, and potentially may never be able to dive or teach again.
The day of Gemma’s Accident:
In Gemma’s own words, she describes the accident:
Last month I was visiting friends in The Faroe Islands. As my buddy Barbara and I walked home we were hit by a car. It turns out an elderly gentleman had had an aneurysm at the wheel of his car. His foot slipped onto the accelerator and the vehicle came with full force at the two of us.Barbara got clipped on the side and broke several ribs, but by the dice throw I got hit straight on. The impact sent me flying through the air and straight into a signpost.
As a result of Gemma’s accident she sustained a catalogue of horrific injuries including:
Massive facial damage, two fractured vertebrae, a broken tailbone, a bleed on the brain, two shattered legs
Gemma’s accident required that she spent two weeks in intensive care before being well enough to be transferred to a UK hospital, where she spent another week in hospital before being allowed home to recuperate. However, things are not currently going to plan. Her right leg has rejected the implant and so she faces a barrage of surgeries to try and save her leg.
Despite Gemma’s accident she is still as tough and determined as ever:
I have my mental strength still, and I WILL dive again!! My life may be different, but its not worse. This is just a chance to start again and build a new life for myself. Being brave isn’t not being scared, its being scared and doing it anyway
We would never doubt Gemma’s bravery and determination, but it is clear she (and her ageing parents who are caring for her) needs support.
I have moved back in with my elderly parents into their old Victorian house. I need full time support, and they give it to me unconditionally. Unfortunately though unless I am carried I am unable to move up or down stairs by myself. This limits me to having to use a commode, or be totally trapped on the upper level with no chance of fresh air or any slight feeling of independence… I have gone from actively using my body to run, to dive, to work, to being bed bound.
Gemma is such an amazing diver who is used to exploring and being so active and involved in all things physical, so hearing how she is struggling to adjust to having no independence whatsoever is what has not only struck a chord with me, but with so many of her close friends, family and the diving community too.
All Gemma wants is some independence. How humbling it is to hear that what she wants most of all right now is a stairlift, to not only give her some independence, but to also reduce the pressure on her parents who are caring for her? The NHS will provide a stairlift, but because of huge demand it will take anywhere between 12-15 months, and we don’t think she should wait that long – especially as there are so many of us that together could make that difference.
Gemma’s Accident – How You Can Help
Friends started a GoFundMe Crowdfunding campaign following Gemma’s accident, as in reality it will take months for any insurance to be settled, particularly as the driver of the car sadly died.
You can click here, if you wish to donate towards her stairlift. If you would prefer to help towards her day to day living costs – or even send some funds just to make that beautiful smile even bigger, you can donate directly to Gemma via PayPal using this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
As well as donating, sharing Gemma’s story with friends, colleagues and buddies will also help! All sharing links are at the bottom of this blog.
Gemma also runs her own business, so not only is she suffering physical hardship, but as she is not able to work or get in the water as a result of her injuries, she is unable to earn any income for the next twelve months – which doesn’t only affect her now, but will affect the future of her business and is understandably an incredible pressure and worry for her and her family.
A final note from Gemma:
Please Send Emergency Hugs!!! Any and all will be gratefully received…A hospital appointment later it turns out my body has rejected the metal plate put in my right leg to stabilise the shattered bone. This means the beginning of a whole new round of specialist surgeries and skin grafts to try to save the leg. One massive cry later, I’m now researching sidemount rigs so I can continue technical diving in the future while minimising the gear I will have to carry. AND my facial scarring is getting better, so as of now I’m going to focus on all the positives!!! Gonna be a long road, but this determined mermaid is NEVER going to be kept out the water!!
Fourth Element have produced these two amazing T shirts with all profits from sales going towards Gemma’s rehabilitation. For more information click here
More information about Gemma:
Gemma worked as an instructor full time at one of the Caribbean’s busiest Technical Diving centres, Dive Tech Grand Cayman, during which time she was lead guide on one of the Inner Space boats, guided Technical dives, became an IANTD CCR Instructor and was bottom diver on a 155 metre camera test dive for housing manufacturer Nauticam.
In the past few years she has specialised in Cave diving and in 2016 became one of the youngest ever OC and CCR Full Cave Instructors. Gemma has trained extensively in Diving related first aid qualifying as a First Person On Scene (FPOS), HSE First Aid At Work and Diver Medical Technician (DMT).
As an educator Gemma has trained, supervised and guided divers from groups such as Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI), and the US National Parks Service.
Throughout the last several years Gemma has been a team diver and team medic working on joint projects between WHOI, Lund University, and the Greek Ephorate of Antiquities on projects including the Mentor Wreck in Kythera and the Antikythera Mechanism wreck in Antikythera. She has recently been involved with working with the Defence POW/MIA Accounting Agency on recovering veterans remains underwater from World War 2 wreck sites.
The team at Go Freediving, wishes Gemma a speedy return to health so that she can come and rejoin all of her family and friends in the diving community – and keep doing what we all love so much!
Recent Update From Gemma (Saturday 21st April 2018)
So, the stairlift was supposed to have been put in yesterday. The only slight flaw is that I was taken in as an emergency to a specialist hospital unit in Bristol very early yesterday morning. I will be in for a minimum of two to three weeks Yesterday was a big operation to remove the metal plate from the right leg, clean out the infection, and remove a large section of skin around the wound that was dead and infected. Woke up in agony but am now heavily on the morphine so feeling better. I have to stay here a week and see what happens to the infection, and then they will try and stabilise the bone again (it unfortunately hasn’t healed at all). From there its more waiting to see how it takes, and then its skin graft time. So skin and fat being taken from my thigh and grafted over the wound. So a fun month ahead (!!). Really just to warn you that I may not be great at replying to stuff, but I always love receiving your messages even when I don’t answer due to being asleep/drugged/ operated on!!! xxxx
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