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Case study Ivan Castro

Branch of Service: US Army, Special Operations Command
Injury: Blindness
Date of Birth: 8 November 1967
Place of Birth: New Jersey, USA
Residence: North Carolina, USA

We asked the South Pole Expedition Manager: Because Ivan is blind, what particular challenges will he face in Antarctica?

The challenges for Ivan are many, and his blindness also present challenges to his team. He is tethered to a team mate who acts as his guide, but Ivan still needs to be immaculately prepared. He is far more organised than any of this team as he has to know EXACTLY where every bit of kit is, so that he can locate this quickly if needed. If Ivan drops something, and is unaware of having done so, this could prove dangerous. His team will be constantly monitoring him and checking that he is correctly dressed, has no exposed skin and has all he needs. In fact, each team is constantly keeping an eye on fellow expedition members, but Ivan, of course, can’t help with this. Ivan finds the participation in team tasks a challenge too. When camp is being set up the team has to check supplies, light the stove, boil water for food and drink, and set out the team members’ kit. Ivan can’t help with those tasks because he can’t see, so it is important for the sake of morale that he feels valued, and has his own tasks which he can be in charge of and help with.

Ivan, who was serving in Iraq when he was severely injured by shrapnel from a mortar round, has not allowed his blindness to slow him down or prevent him from living life to the fullest. He is still serving on active duty with the US Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg.

“Although my sight has been taken from me, there is still life out there to be fully lived and enjoyed. Although doors have been closed by the nature of my injury, my involvement with the South Pole challenge shows that so much can be achieved – all you need is a vision and the will to keep moving forward.” – Capt. Ivan Castro.

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