Cared for in the Turks and Caicos

My husband, Richard, suffered a dive accident on Sept. 17. Upon surfacing from his second dive of the day, his left hand began to go numb. The numbness persisted, and within moments a sensation of pins and needles began to work its way up his left arm. He realized within a few minutes that the feeling was getting worse. The implication of the numbness, tingling and pain was obvious: He was bent (i.e., he had decompression sickness).

The DAN® classes we had taken in the past and the knowledge we had gained from reading Alert Diver allowed us to remain calm and gave us some understanding of what would come next. That was just the beginning of how DAN helped us.

Man holds left arm because it is numb
Within a few minutes of surfacing from his second dive of the day, Richard Stroh began to experience numbness in his left arm. It quickly became clear to him it was DCS.

Richard started breathing pure oxygen within minutes, and the boat crew administered it skillfully. At that point another, faster, dive boat agreed to take Richard to a dock to get him to the closest appropriate medical facility. Prohibited from accompanying Richard, I waited on the liveaboard with nothing to do but to worry and bide my time. I had no way of knowing his condition, what was happening, the severity of the hit or if he was even alive.

I took comfort in the fact that DAN was aware of what was happening and would provide expert medical consultation if needed. I was relieved by DAN’s assurance that Richard was being treated by the best physician available and that DAN was in some way aiding in his care. We were in a remote area of the Turks and Caicos; there was no phone service, no texting, no email — no nothing. Despite these stumbling blocks the crew had contacted DAN and immediately started the process of caring for my husband.

Approximately 11 hours later I made it to shore. Happily reunited with my husband, I finally made my first call to DAN. It was late at night, but I desperately hoped someone would answer and reassure me that the bills would be taken care of and that they had everything they needed to process the paperwork. I breathed a sigh of relief when someone answered, assured me a claim was open and told me everything would be fine. Having someone available who could make me feel better despite the late hour is a level of customer service I haven’t experienced anywhere else.

The next morning we returned to the chamber. The doctor explained what had happened — the effects on Richard — and told us he had responded well to the chamber treatment. Richard was to undergo 2.5 more hours of hyperbaric therapy that day. As he lay there in the chamber, I began to worry again. How soon would they want to be paid, how did the claims process work, and how were we going to keep up with the out-of-pocket expenses? More questions raced through my mind as I thought about the logistics of the coming days. The doctor had assured me Richard would be fine, which left me free to worry about money. The out-of-pocket expenses at that point had already amounted to a little more than $500; where on earth would we come up with the money for the changed airline tickets, hotel rooms, taxis and food?

I called DAN again, and the representative was pleasant and happy to help. She assured me that my concerns were understandable and that DAN would take care of everything for me. She explained that they had dealt with this doctor many times and that we would have no problems with him. She asked about our primary health insurance and assured me that interfacing with that company wouldn’t be a problem either. She let me know we had plenty of time to take care of the paperwork, and she did a great job of making me feel like everything would be OK. She asked about Richard’s condition, how I was doing and whether we needed anything else. I let her know how much better I felt knowing DAN was there for us.

Man is lying down with oxygen mask on

Once Richard got out of the chamber, we had all day to wait until the boat could pick us up in the evening. The doctor had written a letter stating that Richard was medically unfit to fly on Sept. 21 (our planned departure date) but that flying on Sept. 22 wouldn’t be a problem. When I spoke to the airline, they told me it would cost us $700 to change our flights to the next day. Then the cell phone cut out three times, and we were left with no new reservations. We started adding up the out-of-pocket costs we were faced with, and we simply didn’t have the $1,500 we needed. I panicked once again — the thought of Richard flying before the date the doctor recommended scared me to death.

We returned to the boat to keep our expenses down; the hotel was costing us $200 a night, and we had already paid for three more nights aboard the boat. DAN tried many times to email us forms to get the process started to prepay for the flight home, and the representatives never sounded frustrated or upset — they were always reassuring and pleasant. When we went ashore for dinner that Friday night, I made one last call to DAN to see if we could get some help so Richard did not have to risk a recurrence of his symptoms by flying home before the date the doctor recommended. At 8 p.m. a young man called me back. DAN representative Toby Koy had gotten permission from the claims department to prepay for our tickets to fly Sunday. I was elated. Toby even had the airline ticket agent on the other line, and he told me our tickets would be changed free of charge. I was so grateful and relieved.

I wish I had the names of all the DAN representatives who helped us; they all played a part in keeping us grounded and as psychologically stable as was humanly possible. Divers Alert Network works — simply and efficiently. This is insurance we will forever buy and believe in. To DAN we are eternally grateful.

© Alert Diver — Q1 Winter 2014