Tim asked me to read an article in the Diver Alert Network (DAN) magazine Alert Diver, called “Trust Your Instincts.” We agree that the information in that article is important for all divers to hear.
Nicole Baker wrote the article to deliver two messages: 1) Diver instincts and training are essential in determining whether a diver suffers from decompression sickness; and 2) DAN insurance is instrumental during the treatment process for decompression sickness.
To recap the article, Nicole and boyfriend Ben had dived the USNS General Hoyt S. Vandenberg in Key West. They’d done two dives, both to about 90 feet. Neither diver had exceeded his or her computer limits. Both divers had dived the identical dive profile, and both divers had included an extra half-depth safety stop. After the dives, Nicole noticed a large, purple honeycomb-looking rash on Ben’s chest and stomach. Remembering the signs and symptoms of decompression sickness (DCS) from her training, she voiced concern that Ben may be suffering from DCS and urged him to call the DAN Medical Information Line to get an expert’s opinion. Ben brushed it off. After all, he hadn’t pushed his limits. He chalked the bruises up as chafing from his new weight belt. But later he admitted to seeing stars and being unable to read printed papers or road signs. By the time they headed to the Emergency Room, several hours had passed.
Despite the hospital’s close proximity to popular dive sites, members of the medical team that initially attended to Ben were not trained in dive medicine. In fact, Ben received fluids and neurological exams before being administered oxygen. Readers who have taken DAN’s Oxygen-Provider Course know that the first thing you do when you suspect a dive-related injury is to put the diver on oxygen.
In the end, Ben was transported by ambulance 72 miles to the nearest hyperbaric chamber where he spent three hours compressed to 60 feet and another three hours at 30 feet. He made a full recovery.
Nicole goes on to explain that the couple received a mound of bills in the months following the accident, but all she had to do was scan each one and email it to DAN. She’s grateful they’d been insured. She says, “I had never had a positive experience with a health insurance company before; it was so nice to feel like an insurance company was actually on our side. There were no deductibles, and there was no fine print saying, “Well, actually, now that you mention it, we don’t cover this or that…,” and the caring nature of all the staff members with whom we spoke will ensure that we both renew our DAN memberships for the rest of our diving careers.”
What can we take away from Nicole and Ben’s story? Computers are excellent tools for planning and executing safe dives, but they are only tools. Decompression sickness has been known to happen to divers who dived within safe limits. Knowing the signs and symptoms of DCS is critical. And it’s important to trust your instincts. When you suspect something is wrong during or after a dive, don’t delay; investigate in that moment. And when an accident does occur, it’s wonderful to have the assurance that your DAN membership will be there to support you through the process.
If you’d like to read Nicole Baker’s article in its entirety, click HERE.
For information on DAN Memberships and Benefits, click HERE.
Do you have a story about DCS or DAN? Share it with us in the comments!