Ventilator-Assisted Living©

Winter 2004, Vol. 18, No. 4


My Dream: Scuba Diving!

Matt Johnston, Woodbury, Minnesota (

I'm 27 years old and use a custom tracheostomy tube and volume ventilation. I need to use a ventilator due to Duchenne muscular dystrophy. I have been working very hard at my dream to scuba dive and have contacted many people in the scuba diving industry. Other divers and people in the medical field say it is "do-able." I would be very happy just to spend 10 minutes and to go just 5 to 10 feet below the surface, because the underwater realm fascinates me.

Photo of Matt wearing his DUI jacket.I have made many friends in the diving world, especially through Divers Unlimited International (DUI) in San Diego whose president is Susan Long. Her company has been incredibly supportive of my dream and they plan to help at dive time. The biggest challenge is finding a way to dive with the right kind of ventilator underwater.

Project Innerspace, a Rhode Island-based nonprofit group whose mission is to address critical human health issues through ocean exploration, is sponsoring me with a contribution of first-stage program development and management. The group believes in advancing technology through the development of a new ventilator that can withstand submersion and with a system capable of operating at increased pressure.

In the meantime, I plan to experiment with the HT50® (Newport Medical Instruments, Inc.) inside a backpack strapped to my body inside a DUI dry suit. The HT50 has been tested to withstand pressures up to 2.1 atmospheres. Next, an air supply (either via an air line at the surface or via an air tank carried by another diver) would feed into the ventilator; there would be a one-way exhalation valve for carbon dioxide. This is just one of my many ideas.

I'm planning the dive in a warm water area (San Diego or Florida) in the summer of 2006, but I hope to do it sooner. If anyone has information or suggestions, I'd be glad to receive them:

Thank you.

New Pool Dive, Update 11-7-05:

Hi, Everyone!

I just wanted to let you know I did 45 minutes under the water yesterday! It was great! We went to the deep end again and I was under about 5 ft deep. I turned onto my belly for about 10 minutes. That was really awesome!

On the inside of my dry suit, I have a connector that hooks my vent tubing to my dry suit. We found a hairline crack in it, and the air escaping kept making my dry suit blow up. I think I need to find one that is made of metal or some other sturdy material. We are going to check into it later.

Next time I am hitting an hour. That's the longest I am going to go. After that I am going to start speinding more time on my belly, getting the buoyancy down pat. Eventually I want to work up to 6 ft under the water, seeing how that goes.

Here's a link to some new pictures I added of my pool dive yesterday.

Take care everyone, Matt

I finally did my one-hour dive! Update 2-1-06

Hi, everyone. I just wanted to tell you all about the dive. It was about six feet down in the pool. I killed the hour and it was alot of fun. Everything went well but for one thing; that was my gloves. I have never had that problem before. My hands fell into the dry suit sleeves and the gloves filled up with air and I could not get my hands back inside the gloves, so I said, "Forget it and let's dive." I think I need to get my sleeves shortened.

My total dive time so far is 280 minutes. I am working with Diveheart to get myself certified. I have been studying hard to pass the test. To see my new photos, connect here.

Take care everyone, Matt

Making a Dive Against Time, Update 7-3-06

Matt went scuba diving at Wazee Lake near Black River Falls, Wisconsin, the first time he ever completed a dive in an open body of water.

"I am now a certified open water diver now. I've attached an article that I have; I thought I would share it with you. " (Note: The article is no longer online.)

To learn more visit or

Here’s a link to my TV spot aired on July 14th, 2005:

"So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable." –Christopher Reeve

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