This is the case of one of our divers who came for treatment, they have kindly written it up and gave us permission to publish:
It's true what they say, life can really stop in the blink of an eye! After an awesome day of diving, with one technical dive and two recreational deep dives, I was driving back along the Ml feeling more tired than usual when I suddenly became hot, sweat dripping from my forehead. I knew in that moment that something was very wrong.
I lowered my window but couldn't feel the chilly air against my face. A black fog started to spread across my vision, and my heartbeat quickened as panic crept in. It's a sick feeling when in that moment, you realise what is happening to your body, but you are helpless.
I pulled off at the junction I was approaching, and not a moment too soon – within seconds pins and needles like I had never experienced before started to spread from my fingers to all over my body before turning to a numb feeling with all sensation lost from my head down.
The next hour was a blur. Between managing to phone 999 and feeling some comfort in talking to the operator, the reality of what was happening to my body really began to set in and how serious the situation was. Seeing the blue beacons light up the dark continued that sense of hope and relief… until I heard them talking between themselves about how I might have had a stroke and they should get me to the nearest A&E… in that moment I realised they wouldn't know what decompression illness was and that every minute they were talking about getting me to A&E was more time away from the hyperbaric chamber, the only place that I knew would be able to get me back on my feet.
With an oxygen mask on in the back of an ambulance, the black fog cleared enough for me to be able to mumble with enough conviction, ‘look in my wallet, can you see the card, the Midlands Diving Chamber card, I have decompression illness, call that number, please'.
The words I heard come through on loudspeaker from Midlands Diving Chamber (MDC) was utter relief, ‘he needs to be in the chamber NOW!'. And with that we headed back up the M1 on blues inbound for MDC.
By the time we arrived, the 45 minutes of oxygen I had been on in the ambulance meant that I could wiggle my toes and fingers again. The dive doctor was there when we arrived, ready and waiting at 11pm on a Sunday night. I was wheeled into the doctor's office to be assessed with some simple activities, like standing on one leg and closing my eyes (where I toppled over straight away!) and drawing on my chest, back and stomach where the purple ‘bruising' was so we could monitor it decreasing in size over time.
After getting changed into my scrubs, having a laugh with the team, completing plenty of paperwork, in I went and began the longest dive of my life of seven hours and 20 minutes at 30m.
The team at MDC are truly nothing short of incredible; the knowledge, experience, humour and compassion the team showed me was amazing. It truly is part of a diver's support network. At a time where it would be easy to judge, to make assumptions as to why I got DCI, to question what mistake I had made, I was told ‘every sport has its own risks and injuries. Unfortunately for divers, it's DCI, but that's why MDC is here – to patch us up so we can continue to enjoy the thing we love'.
Emergency tel no: 07931 472602
Landline: 01788 579555
Midlands Diving Chamber
Midlands Diving Chamber, Redmond House, Hospital of St Cross, Barby Road, Rugby, Warwickshire, CV22 5PX
This article was originally published in Scuba Diver UK #71.