Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I learned about diving from that hit on the head by a scuba tank. (safety in skin diving).

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Potentially harmful accidents when scuba diving can be prevented by following the 'Code of the Responsible Diver.' The code covers important aspects such as experience, training, preparation, equipment check and coordination between diving buddies.

Ever looked forward to a special dive trip and waited and waited for the time to come to take that fantastic vacation? That's how I felt about our trip to The Bahamas. The highlight was going to be The Dolphin Experience at UNEXSO. And, we were able to arrange our schedule so the dolphin dive occurred on my birthday.

That morning we made two great dives--beautiful corals, colorful fish, warm water and blue skies. When we returned from our second dive we were told we were in luck--there was room aboard The Dolphin Experience boat for that afternoon.

At the compound, we were briefed on how to dive with the dolphins, how to call them over with hand signals and how to touch them gently. The trainer warned us that with this many divers (13), the dolphins might be shy and less interactive. Such a large group would likely stir up the sandy bottom and make visibility poor. And, sometimes sharks swam by and scared the dolphins away. We were anxious as we motored out to the dive spot. At the dive site, everyone finished gearing up quickly, jostling and jockeying for position. We all wanted to be first in the water.

I rolled backward into the water. Just as I hit the surface, I felt a crushing thud on my head and was slammed about four feet down. My regulator was knocked out of my mouth. As I made my way to the surface, I realized my buddy had rolled into the water and landed on my head--tank first. I swam to the back of the boat and touched my head--no blood. If it had not been The Dolphin Experience, I would have sat out that dive. My head hurt and I was a bit dazed but the dolphins were waiting for us and I had to go. I descended.

The group assembled quickly on the bottom, kneeling in a large circle. The trainers floated in the middle of the circle with bags of fish. The dolphins zoomed by once, then vanished. We looked around. We looked at the trainers. We looked at each other. We began to fear the dolphins would not reappear. We waited.

My head really hurt. I touched my hand to my head again to feel for a lump. What I felt stunned me. My finger ran through a one-quarter inch deep gash about two inches long. I looked at my fingers as blood floated upward. My first thought was that I was 50 feet under water with a bleeding head wound. My second thought was that if anyone saw the blood they would make me leave--and miss the dolphins. I was determined to stay, so I put my hand over the cut. As we waited, I began to worry. I would have to get stitches. They would shave my head. I probably wouldn't be able to dive the next day. I was sure my fresh blood was attracting sharks. If I began to lose consciousness, could I make it to the surface in time? Should I surface now?

Then the dolphins reappeared. Beautiful creatures, big and sleek and powerful. They came to each of us and let us touch them. For one-half hour, we fed them fish, petted them, then swam with them. I enjoyed our interaction with the dolphins--all the while monitoring myself for signs of light headedness or blurred vision.

On the boat I quickly put on my hat and said nothing. Surely this cut wasn't really that bad. Back on dry land, we put away our gear and changed into dry clothes. I had seen myself in a mirror and knew what was in store for me. I showed the cut to my boyfriend. "Adhesive bandage?" I asked hopefully. "Hospital," he answered.

We made a trip to the Rand Memorial Hospital. I had some (not too much) hair shaved, got four stitches and a tetanus shot. Although it wasn't my first choice on how to spend the evening, the staff at Rand was wonderful.

My buddy was not aware she had landed on me. Since her tank hit first, she never felt a thing. We both felt terrible about the accident and consoled each other over delicious Bahamian food and drinks.

The moral of the story is: Even when you are excited about a special dive, can't wait to get in the water and are anxious about what you might find below, you still have to think. I could have prevented my injury by communicating better with my buddy and coordinating our entries. We could have slowed down just a bit and prevented a bad situation.

I was lucky on this dive--lucky the tank did not hit me full in the face, lucky I did not lose consciousness underwater. I sure won't take the chance of being that lucky again. Not even for The Dolphin Experience.



I understand and assume the risks I may encounter while diving.

Responsible diving begins with:

* Accepting the responsibility for my own safety on every dive.

* Diving within the limits of my ability and training.

* Evaluating the conditions before every dive and making sure they fit my personal capabilities.

* Being familiar with and checking my equipment before and during every dive.

* Knowing my buddy's ability level as well as my own.

Source Citation:Suttle, Betsy. "I learned about diving from that hit on the head by a scuba tank." Skin Diver 42.n11 (Nov 1993): 198(1). General OneFile. Gale. Alachua County Library District. 25 Aug. 2009

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