22 September 2013

Decompression Sickness

     My last dive was on Sunday, 22 September 2013. Gary Smith and three other divers from Ontario, Canada, were down for a long weekend.  They arrived on Friday morning and we made a shore dive that afternoon.

     Saturday morning we dove the Ancient Mariner and a shallow reef with Scubatyme out of Pompano Beach.  We stayed with Scubatyme and dove the Sea Emperor and a shallow reef that afternoon, with a short underwater trip to the United Caribbean.

Wheel house on the Tortuga
     On Sunday, we first dove the wreck of the Tortuga with Ted Gawronski of Adventure Scuba Diving out of  North Miami.  The wreck was sunk in April, 1995 for the movie "Fair Game," which I have never seen.  The wreck is a 165 foot' freighter that sits in 110 feet of water and with its deck at about 90 feet.  The final scene of the movie is the actual sinking of the ship, as supervised by the Miami-Dade Department of Environmental Resources (DERM).

     I found an anchor with about 100 yards of good line.  I coiled the line and thought about taking the anchor and line back to the boat, but then decided against it since I was also carrying the big camera and did not want to use my BCD as a lift bag.  So I left the anchor next to the wreck with the line nicely coiled next to it.  Pity.

We had a little over an hour surface interval and  then dove the Wall, which was the grown over trench left after digging in the sand for a beach re-nourishment project years ago.  At Ted's direction, the Captain anchored the boat  in 50 feet of water and about 100 years from the Wall.  I considered passing on the dive as I had not slept well the night before and was extremely tired and dehydrated.  I changed my mind as I watched the other divers get in.  I wanted to see the Wall for myself.

     I swam the 50 yards or so to the Wall and then swam over the edge and let myself sink down to a small outcropping at maybe 90 feet.  I got some good pictures of Creole Wrasse, as there were several schools that came by.
I got a nice shot of a Yellow Jack
 and a Graysby,

as well as the fish to the right, which I did not recognize.  Fifteen minutes into the dive, I found myself at 99 feet, for which the NDL is 20 minutes, so I headed back to the outcropping and then went up to the top of the Wall at 50 feet and swam back to the anchor line.  I kept my rate of ascent at about 30 ft per minute and stopped at 10 feet to clear a 1 minute deco obligation my computer showed before I surfaced.

     I swam to the stern of the boat and climbed aboard, walked to my seat and got out of my gear.  I felt tired, but good.  I dried off and was joking with the other divers when someone handed me a snack bar.  I took a bite of the sticky sweet bar and started to pass out.  I sat down, then I lay down and then I was out.

     I came to at the dock.  I thought I had some food issue or maybe was hyperglyciemic. It really did not occur to me that I had decompression sickness. I was breathing O2 and had been given an IV saline drip. By the time we got to Aventura Hospital, I felt pretty good.  I never did experience any pain, stiffness, nausea, or dizziness.  I really had no symptoms at all except that I could not walk a straight line. I was ready to leave.  My white cell count was high, however, and my blood pressure was erratic.

     The doctor was a younger guy who really was doing a great job with a difficult patient. He convinced me to transfer to Mercy for evaluation by Dr. Montoya. It was late when I got there, however, and I did not see Dr. Montoya until the next morning.

     All of my various scans were clear, but I was treated in the chamber anyway, and it helped. It helped a lot. So I got scheduled in and treated with a total of six chamber rides over 5 days. Three days into the treatments, Dr. Montoya used an X-ray to find two small lesions in my cerebellum. Apparently, I got hit sometime within the previous 12 months, as well, and I do remember a couple of weeks in August of 2012 during which I had some balance problems which then cleared themselves.

     I left the hospital Wednesday night, but drove myself back both Thursday and Friday for additional chamber treatments.  I was doing much better.

     I was shocked to see the amount I was charged for the treatments I received.  The total was about $50,000, of which the chamber treatments were only $16,000.  I am so glad I had insurance.