Soldier overcomes fear of water decades after nearly drowning as a child
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Soldier overcomes fear of water decades after nearly drowning as a child

By MaryTherese Griffin, U.S. Army Warrior Care and Transition

ARLINGTON, Va. - U.S. Army Spc. Heiky Fortuna avoided the water at all cost. He nearly drowned in his native Dominican Republic when he was a child. The 28-year-old petroleum supply specialist had to face that fear because of another issue; he was injured in Korea during a training exercise in October 2018.

"I ended up in the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Carson, Colorado because I broke the radial head bone in my left arm and had to have surgery to cut off the bone," said the now Bronx, New York resident. He entered the WTU October 25, 2018 and is still healing. The radius bone goes from your elbow to your wrist and the radial head is at the top of the radius bone. Fortuna is learning to recover and overcome through physical and occupational therapy.

Part of that healing process includes the possibility of water as an aide.

"One of my biggest fears is deep water. I cannot swim and I panic in the water, but my Transition Coordinator, Marc Cattapan, and my platoon, Sgt. 1st Class Johnny Sotomayor convinced me to go on a trip to Crested Butte, Colorado to work on this fear," said Fortuna.

Fortuna and several other Soldiers from the Fort Carson WTU participated in an adaptive summer sports trip to Crested Butte, Colorado August 26-31 2019. The WTU team accompanied the Soldiers to work on enhancing physical, social, spiritual, and emotional domains of the comprehensive transition program.

Conquering going under water was a big challenge according to Fortuna, but he did it. "Conquering this fear has given me more confidence in life and in the water. I am starting actual swimming lessons with Marc at the end of the month," said the hopeful swimmer. Swimming will be utilized for healing that new arm and getting him back in the game.

"I want to thank Marc and Sgt. 1st Class Sotomayor for helping me conquer my fears. I am excited about my recovery and thankful for what the adaptive reconditioning program gives to Soldiers towards the healing process."

Fortuna is beginning to look beyond the Army, taking advantage of the WTU's resources and wants to go to school and become a historian.

He hopes other Soldiers find ways to conquer their fears should they come to the WTU. "My advice would be to take advantage of all the programs the WTU has to offer towards the recovery process."