‘Frozen’ man becomes a diver

GUANGZHOU (Xinhua) – “There should be no boundaries to human endeavour. We are all different.

However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.”

This is a widely quoted saying by the famous physicist Stephen Hawking.

Hawking continued to explore the universe with great perseverance after being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Recently, the 22-year-old Fang Jianze, who suffers from a rare muscle disease called Emery Dreyfus Muscular Dystrophy (EDMD), a similar syndrome with Hawking, broke his limits and won a Handicapped Diving (HSA) certificate.

Fang became China’s first diver with muscle disease.

Fang Jianze was born with EDMD. The muscles in his arms and legs began to shrink, his body was gradually frozen. He has only been able to sit in a wheelchair since he was three years old.

“The school didn’t have wheelchair-accessible stairs. My parents carried me with my wheelchair upstairs every time I went to the classroom,” Fang said.

“I was accompanied by endless frustration, and I was unable to take care of everything by myself. Everytime I wanted to do something, I needed someone’s help.

“I didn’t even dare to go to the bathroom. I could wait for a day to use the washroom because I didn’t want to bother my classmates,” he said.

The tremendous pain stimulated Fang to make a change and become a person who can live by himself.

After going through school, Fang Jianze was admitted to Zhuhai College of Jilin University and became a college student majoring in communications engineering in 2017.

This was a new start for Fang, who began to try to break through the constraints of his disability.

“If I can’t make changes in the university, there would be no hope in the rest of my life,” he told himself.

He began to open his heart to his classmates, and made more friends on campus. In 2018, he bought an electric wheelchair.

For the first time in two years, he went off the campus.

“I found that there were not so many people paying attention to me. In fact, I had always set restrictions on myself,” Fang said.

He went to the mall and the beach, spending a whole day in the city.

“From then on, I started to participate in club activities, join debate teams, and participate in competitions. I became more and more cheerful and optimistic,” he said.

He made a list of problems that needed to be solved in order to live a life by himself: eating, going to the bathroom, studying in the classroom, reading in the library.

With the help of his classmates and the support of his university, Fang completed the tasks one by one.

He declared “mission accomplished” one year later. He even went to Zhuhai from Guangzhou, then Hong Kong from Zhuhai, traversing China’s Pearl River Delta region all by himself.

Fang has dreamed to be an explorer, ever since childhood. When he achieved the goal of living on his own, the dream began to take root.

Inspired by the French movie Intouchables, Fang was able to complete a tandem skydive.

“At that time, I had a feeling of epiphany. I suddenly realised that as long as I dare to try, physical disabilities are never a problem, and the obstacles are actually in my heart,” he said.

Fang was born in a coastal town in the east of Guangdong. His long-time dream was to swim in the sea.

He started the physically training – riding a tricycle for five kilometres every day. It took him 50 minutes, a similar speed of walking for able-bodied individuals.

After a whole year of physical preparation, he began to attend diving courses in May. In the first class, he was exhausted, but didn’t give up.

“I have an advantage in diving because of my slow metabolism, I can stay in the water longer than others with the same tank of gas.”

He overcame unimaginable fears under water. He can’t fully stretch his legs, he can’t swim breaststroke or butterfly, but he finally found a way to swim.

For a typical able bodied person, it only takes about four days to obtain an ‘Open Water Diver Certificate’.

For Fang, it took 15 months: physical training for more than one year and learning to dive for more than three months.

Finally he dived 12 metres underwater two weeks ago.

“Finally, I realised my dream!” Fang got the HSA diving certificate numbered C2075 on August 19.

Fang posted a video of his dive on the Internet, which has been watched by over 10 million people.

He became an Internet celebrity and inspired many. But he said neither skydiving nor diving was his “main business”. “I am a student, I am preparing for the postgraduate entrance examination. I want to study applied psychology for my postgraduate time,” Fang said.

“Many people with the same symptoms as me suffer from depression, and I want to help them,” he added.

Fang also wrote a few barrier-free travel guides and shared his stories on the Internet.

He wants to promote barrier-free transformation in public places.

“One day, I want to start a barrier-free IT company to help more people and make the society more friendly to people with disabilities,” he said.