my first lesson in the difference between recreational and professional scuba
Sunday, June 12, 2011 at 20:39
Rebel Heart in fitness, professional maritime, scuba


The guy with the blurred out face there taught me a few lessons today. We’ll call him Ned. As a Divemaster candidate, my job was to act as a divemaster for a group of open water students. Herding the cats, as they say.

My day started with a lady who dropped her mask in 55’ of water. No big deal, go down and grab it for her. There was one student who from working with him yesterday I knew he was a bit of a spaz (that’s the technical term used to denote people lacking all forms of grace and elegance in the subsea environment), so when I head “Eric, buddy up with Ned and get him down!” I knew I was in trouble.

Ned has two ways of moving in the water: dropping like a stone or flying up like a child’s balloon soaring to the heavens. Trying to keep pace with this, the current set us off, so there I was all alone with Ned as he went high and low and low and high again.

As a recreational diver, you learn your limits. You learn a way to descend (both in rate and technique) that works for you, and likewise for ascending. But with student divers, you have to deal with their often crazy behavior. If they shoot to the surface over buoyant, you need to slow them down by grabbing a fin and trying to slow their rate of ascent. Likewise if they’re bombing into the depths, you need to arrest their downward progress. Both of these maneuvers require you to alter your normal way of doing business and quickly have both ascents and descents that you weren’t planning on making. Ears giving you trouble that day? Tough shit, you can’t let your students drown.

So here I sit with a nice cause of sinus barotrauma,  unable to smell or taste anything, never mind the pain of whatever damage happened deep inside my face. Caused by chasing Ned around as he flew up and down in the ocean, I need to get some rest and have sweet dreams about how to manage myself underwater so that I don’t get injured and my students learn how to dive and don’t get injured themselves.

Ugh. File this blogpost in the “what the hell am I doing this again for?” category.

Update on Wednesday, June 15, 2011 at 16:39 by Registered CommenterEric

In the event that other scuba divers with sinus barotrauma find this blog, I wanted to post some follow ups to track where I'm going with it. I did some googling around, and then eventually ended up calling DAN, who was incredibly helpful. Scuba divers in general are a very helpful bunch and the folks over at DAN are really top notch. 

They didn't suggest, although hinted, that pseudoephedrine (nicknamed "scuba"fed) is a common sight in a lot of dive bags, as is Afrin. And honestly for the occassional diver I think those are worthy suggestions despite PADI's strong verbage otherwise. If you're congested you shouldn't be diving, but if some over the counter medications can make the difference between a simple case of allergies making or breaking a week long dive trip it becomes readily apparent why they're so common. DAN recommended I see an ENT specialist, and have that doctor call DAN for any consultations. 

I ended up going to my primary care physician this afternoon, and here's basically what happened.

A CT scan costs around $500, and surgery can mess up the architecture of your body even when done by the best of hands. She prescribed me fluticasone propionate, a nasal steroid in the hopes that what's going on is sinusitis that's just really sensetive to allergies and pressure changes. 

I have no idea if it will work, and I told her that I don't want to be sitting on a dive boat all ready to go and find out that I can't get under the water. It's well worth $500 to me for someone to tell me that my face is jacked up because of an obstruction of some type. 

But in general I've agreed with my doctor's view of minimal medicine and starting with small steps first, despite my general desire to solve everything with lots of surgery and a heavy hand. So I'll try the nasal steroid, stay off boat dives (where there is too much money at stake to ruin a dive) and hang out in the pool and shore entries. 

I'll update this blog post as progress is, or is not, made. 

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