Lauren’s Story

Lauren ‘O’ in the land of the Manatees
Indian Valley Scuba & IAHD-Americas – perfect together!

2011 started off with a very, very special trip south to visit the manatees and explore the freshwater springs of North Central Florida. Why so special, you ask? We come here every year to play with the second largest mammals found in the ocean and root around in the underground caverns and caves that cover this region. I’ll tell you why this years trip is one of the most special ever – because we are celebrating Lauren Ostrowski’s checkout dives this weekend.

Hmmmm, you are thinking……it seems IVS is doing that just about every weekend of the year someplace! True, true, we do so love to dive and introduce others to this wonderful sport, but our student this weekend is extra special, and I think you’ll feel the same way as I share her story with our readers.

Lauren Ostrowski and her family have been part of our latest International Association of Handicapped Divers (IAHD-Americas) project here at IVS for the past 16 months. Lauren is 28 years old, and has spastic, quadriplegic cerebral palsy, a condition that affects the way her brain sends signals to control her muscles. It affects how she moves her entire body and all of her muscles are tight, making her body stiff and her limbs nearly set in position. Her effective movement is limited to her right hand, and her left for some typing, as well as her neck & head, qualifying her for the title quadriplegic, or quad for short, the term used for those with limited or no usage of all four appendages. She uses a motorized wheelchair for mobility and there’s a lot more to her than what you see at first glance. She has a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Edinboro is a school located outside of Erie, PA, with about 9,000 students in attendance. What makes this school differ from others, though, is that Edinboro receives state funding to provide personal care to those students that need help with activities of daily living, such as getting dressed, eating and more. There are usually about 60 students enrolled that are in need of some kind of help. Edinboro also provides people to assist with meals and writing answers to exams. Lauren says Edinboro was really a springboard for a lot of what she does now and plans to do in the future. Lauren has a full-time job as an outpatient psychotherapist, is a National Certified Counselor, and is working on becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor.

Her life has not been an easy one. The effects of this birth defect, which approx 10,000 babies are born with annually in the United States alone, are varied and the symptons range from mild to severe, often accompanied with some form of mental retardation. While Lauren suffers from the physical attributes of this disorder, her mind is as sharp as a tack and her mental process clear and bright, as evidenced by her attainment of her masters degree noted above. From the physical side though, life has been a challenge, with major spinal surgery at age 14 to correct severe scoliosis, which her twisting her in a twisted position towards her left side. Failure to address this would eventually lead to grave difficulty in breathing as her lungs compressed against her other organs. In the surgical process, which included the insertion of a pair of rods and a pound or two of stainless wire into her spine, she ended up growing 4 inches in height, and on a side note, can now carry firearms without detection through any TSA location! She attended Lower Pottsgrove Elementary, enrolled in regular education since third grade, in spite of her need to be fed and assisted by others. She is truly a trooper, and graduated from Pottsgrove High in 2000, and was accepted in Edinboro with classes starting in the fall. Any one of these challenges might be more than the average person could deal with, but does any of this keep Lauren down? Not a chance!!

Read the rest of the story on Dave’s blog