One of my favorite perks of being a journalist? I get to meet some very interesting people.
One such interesting person I’ve had the privilege to meet during my time with the Woodbury Bulletin happens to be a record-setting scuba diver and a resident of Woodbury. His name is Matt Johnston.
I wrote a few stories about Matt and his scuba diving adventures back in 2007 and 2008 after he became the first quadraplegic person who uses a ventilator to scuba dive in the deep sea.
Matt’s story was broadcast on a national news program a few months after his historic dive in the Florida Keys.
I wrote a story about his accomplishment and his every day struggles as a person living with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. While working on this story I was afforded a chance to meet Matt at his Woodbury home and see how he lives every day. I also wrote a follow-up story about a speaking appearance Matt made to a camp for children who are paraplegics or quadriplegics.
I had last spoken with Matt in September of 2008 when he was preparing to make a trip to a Florida Keys diving museum to attend the unveiling of an exhibit dedicated to his feat.
Looking for help in buying a new van
Recently Matt, now 33, sent me an email updating me on his situation.
Because he is wheelchair bound and uses a ventilator to breathe, Matt has used the same a handicap-accessible van to transport him around the community since he was a teenager.
In his recent email Matt informed me the van, which his family has used heavily to transport him over the years, is breaking down.
He said the 1995 Ford has encountered numerous mechanical issues and become too rough of a ride for him to avoid injuries in his current health state. As a result he said he’s missed many medical appointments and has not been able to travel to continue his community outreach to share his diving story with local school and organizations.
Matt said he does not have the financial means to purchase another van, but said if he can somehow find a new one he has been provided with the means to modify it for handicap accessibility.
Excerpt of the email he has sent out to me and other contacts regarding his search for a new van:
“I was a very active individual when my used rickety old van was in tip-top shape, that was about seven years ago. I am no longer an active person due to the inability to travel to and from appointments, activities, and family gatherings. I have missed not just medical appointments but funerals, weddings, and holidays as there was no way to transport me to and from these events. In my past, I was active with swimming and diving. I am unable to do any form of therapy due to the transportation need.”
As a journalist, it’s my job to find stories of interest to readers. It’s never been about advocating for a person, organization or cause. But at the end of the day, I’m just a guy who had a chance to meet a very neat person in Matt Johnston.
I figured I’d share his update here with those who may be interesting in finding a way to help him out.
For more information about Matt and his scuba diving adventures, visit his website: www.divingadream.org
Matt Johnston can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org