Monday, October 12, 2015

Rescue Diver

So. I qualified by graduating PADI's "Rescue Diver" course.

My thoughts about the two days in the water. I ache all over. The first day is physically very difficult. And I made some mistakes. Here are some things I learned.

On the first day we were mostly at the surface doing various drills and exercises. But there were some underwater things -- included pushing a panicked diver away from you, helping a passively panicked diver up to the surface (gently and, ahem, slowly, not the way I did it by blowing up his BCD and rocketing up -- okay okay, we were only about 5 feet so we were okay but that's not what you're supposed to do.) Ahem.
At the surface mostly what we dealt with was responding to another non-responsive diver on the surface. This is where the real workout happens. You splash at the diver (your dive buddy, playing dead). Put your regulator in. You get near them but far enough away they can't panic and crawl on top of you. Splashing and calling out to them all the while. Pass your hands in front of their eyes, always prepared to get away from them and go under water.
Cross your arms to grab theirs. Flip them over... 
Inflate their BCD, your BCD.
Remove their weights, your weights, their regulator, your regulator, their mask, your mask. (You have a 3rd buddy to just deal with that. On both days we had the dive master as our buddy which was very very smart of us.)
Get your ear near their mouth. Look down their body. Count for 10 seconds to see if they're breathing. If not:
Yell to someone to activate EMS and get O2.
Begin rescue breaths starting with two, and then one every 5 seconds while towing the diver to shore and removing their BCD and your own BCD. Then you get to exit the water with their inert body. Which is surprisingly easier than you'd think. (I got used for the "Even someone as big as Andrew can be carried out of the water by someone much smaller" example which was not an ego boost.)
Set the victim down. Begin CPR while someone is on phone with emergency services and someone else readies the O2.
Stayin' Alive for 30 pulses and then 2 breaths. Repeat until EMS gets there. Get a mask on them with O2 free flowing until they can breathe.

You have to drill that a number of times, with a pocket mask and doing mouth-to-mouth (By the time we got to playing with different lines and ways to throw assists into the water I was beat up. Heck, I hurt today and that was two days ago.)

So it's a lot of stuff to push into your brain. My right hand cramped up so I tried to pound water into my system. I was the smart one who wore a hat in the water just to keep the sun off my neck and ears. I didn't adequately put sun screen on the backs of my hands, so they got burned. But that's not all...


Even in the relatively cold water of Dutch Springs, a so-called "Farmer John" 7mm wetsuit is too warm for me. It's too warm for me at the surface, and it's even too warm below the thermocline. If I'm doing any kind of exercise regularly, I start to run very hot -- meaning that even when I'm not working out at the moment I am physically warm. This seems to be true of my older brother and he's a triathlete type.
So during the rescue course I managed to be too hot, too cold, overweighted, and underweighted; all in just two days.
In the full Farmer John I had two 10-lb weights in my pockets and another pair of 4-lb weights in the back pockets of my BCD. That was not enough weight. Exactly, 28 pounds had me under weighted so it was very difficult to get down.
Oh wait, that doesn't even include my ankle weights which are another 3.9 lbs.
When you're overweighted (which happened after I dumped the Farmer John and went to just a dive skin and a 3mm Lavacore suit) you can't get up high enough to do rescue breaths. So ugh. That was a mistake.
I have to sort out my weight situation.
I got myself hurt twice. Both times it was while being the victim. The first time I was underweighted (in the Farmer John with 32 lbs) and supposed to play a "passively panicked diver at the bottom". So I was upside-down and starting to float up and I reached out and grabbed a rock with my fingertips. Big mistake. The barnacles or whatever put two very neat 1cm slices in the tip of my middle finger on my left hand. And it would not stop bleeding. Not very big cuts, but they hurt and were really annoying. But my dive buddy did rescue my non-moving body.

The second time I got hurt I was being carried up on someone's back and something stabbed me in the gut. I think it was just his pelvic bone. But it hit me in a tender place in my middle. Oof. That, uh, is still sensitive and probably will still hurt for a couple days.
On the second day we were going to do another scenario. Our instructor chose one of our group and the dude said "No! I don't wanna do it." So the instructor said "Okay, so who should it be?" And dude totally Julia'd me -- "Him! Make him do it." So the instructor said "Okay, Andrew is the Most Senior Diver in this scenario. He's the one in charge."
All I could think was, oh no. I'm just about to have my ass kicked.
So the scenario is the 8 of us divers are snorkeling around on the surface about 40 feet from the shore. And a diver pops up (played by the instructor) saying that he lost his buddy (the dive master). We asked where they were going and he said the end of one dock to the other dock. They saw a shark or something and his buddy disappeared. He was distraught and didn't know what to do.

Now we'd done exactly this scenario the day before, (yeah, right) and in that case we'd just had to run a search pattern to find a mannequin head the instructor hid on the bottom.
So, as the "senior diver" (which is a joke because I've never dived without an instructor, I've only done the courses up through rescue) I told two people to be "spotters" (oh, oof, I just now realized that one of those spotters was a spotter the day before, I hadn't taken that into consideration, not that I should, but yeah.) I told another two to start a search pattern starting from the one dock and another pair to start searching from the other dock. I told my dive buddy to stick by me and told someone else to activate EMS.
My spotter saw bubbles. (I'm such an idiot I didn't even notice them and they were like 10 feet from me). So I re-assigned the second group of divers to go investigate the bubbles rather than start their search pattern.
I believe I asked someone to escort the instructor to shore and to get the O2 kit. That didn't happen because of simulation reasons -- the instructor was going to stay up there with us. And maybe I didn't do it.
What also did I not do? I did not set up a way to recall divers. That turned out all right for three reasons.
  • There is no practical way to recall divers at Dutch Springs. 
  • And it's largely irrelevant that they can't be recalled -- unlike how it is on a dive boat where you have to get back asap because the boat has to go.
  • My first dive team did not have enough weight to get down, so they never went under the surface, so there was no need to recall them. Ahem.
So my second team could escort the breathing and responsive diver to the shore where he "received" O2 and awaited pretend EMT's.
Yay. Diver(s) rescued. 
The number one thing I should have done was to assign someone (my dive buddy) to think about things we should be doing and tell me what they were. Also I could have been somewhat slower in assigning tasks. And I should have been more careful with the diver on the surface played by the instructor -- made sure he had enough air in his BCD and such, made sure he had an escort.
The big takeaways I have from the course is that the buried lede in all of "rescue diving" is that the number one thing you can do for a panicked diver is to make contact with them. Eye contact. Reassure them. In SCUBA that's most of what you'll ever run into -- upset people who need to know that everyone is cool and it's all good. Also, this is really an important life lesson. If someone's upset, show them that things are fine, or help them make things fine.

The other thing, which everyone agrees with, is that the course is too short. And it totally is. You should probably spend weeks doing the skills you learn. Two days in the water is not enough. But in reality that's not really the issue so much as not doing a couple days like that every 6 months. Or at the beginning of "dive season" or whatever. This is why the military continually practices skills they learn, it's the only way to stay current.
Ha! Dive joke. Stay "current".

So yeah. This is the course everyone says is hard but satisfying. And it totally is. But now I have a clue about just how much I don't know. So it's sort of the setup of a lifetime of practice. Also, I'm getting my own decent first aid kit.

No comments: