I Didn’t See That Coming

Dr. Dario Gomez and some of his staff at the Costamed hyperbaric chamber Photo by Lynne Wright

MY HUSBAND, BARRY, AND I got our dive certifications in Cozumel, Mexico, in 1994, and since then it has been one of our favorite destinations. We spent three weeks diving there in the summer of 2001, following our routine of running, exercising, and diving twice a day. 

Apparently that routine wasn’t a good idea — Barry got decompression sickness (DCS) and had five days of hyperbaric chamber treatments. Thank goodness we had DAN dive accident insurance, or it would have cost us about $10,000. We attribute his DCS to exercising too much and not being hydrated enough. We had the same dive profiles and stayed within our computers’ limits, but only one of us got DCS. Our divemaster explained that dive computers are wonderful devices, but they don’t consider important data such as age, hydration, exercise, physical fitness, or the many other factors that can affect us while diving.

We have been walking advertisements for DAN since then, recounting Barry’s story and encouraging our dive buddies to get DAN insurance. Nobody knows when or why they may get DCS. A couple of my buddies in Cozumel have done thousands of dives and unexpectedly got DCS with no apparent cause. Some DCS incidents aren’t the fault of divers not following the recommended dive tables or computers or even having equipment malfunctions — it just happens.

Lynne Wright prepares to dive in Cozumel.
Photo by Chili Charters Staff

And it eventually happened to me. I made dives 829 and 830 on Thursday, January 5, 2023, in Cozumel. I hadn’t slept well the night before, and getting up at 6 a.m. to get ready was tough. We dived Santa Rosa Wall for 59 minutes with an average depth of 49 feet and a maximum of 76 feet. After a surface interval of more than an hour, we dived San Clemente with an average depth of 41 feet, a maximum of 58 feet, and a 54-minute dive time. I was diving conservatively on 32 percent nitrox with my computer set to an air profile, and nothing unusual happened.

I sent a message to my dive buddies later that evening about how exhausted I was, which I blamed on not getting enough sleep the night before. The following morning I still didn’t feel right, so I went for a walk instead of my usual gym workout. My right hip started hurting so badly that night that I couldn’t get comfortable.

I wasn’t better on Saturday morning, so I researched DCS symptoms, which included fatigue but didn’t mention not feeling right. I called DAN, and the medic said it was strange for the symptoms to be so delayed and suggested I get checked out at Costamed Hospital. 

Barry and I met Dr. Dario Gómez, who took all my dive information and then asked me to do a simple balance test. He had to catch me as I almost fell over and felt like throwing up. After more investigation and learning that I couldn’t raise my right leg while lying on my back, he diagnosed me with DCS and prescribed five hours of hyperbaric treatment.

After completing some forms and getting an IV inserted, I went to the chamber. It was cold, and I had to wear a heavy mask while breathing 100 percent oxygen, but fortunately I had Netflix for entertainment and lots of blankets. I stayed overnight in the hospital for observation. 

Dr. Gomez saw me the next morning and prescribed another chamber session after I didn’t perform well on tests. That evening I had one more two-hour treatment and spent another night in the hospital. The pain in my right hip had subsided, so I was comfortable and could finally sleep well.

On Monday morning I could raise my right leg while lying down and reported very little pain in my hip. I did the balance tests without falling over or vomiting, so I was well enough to be released. Thanks to my DAN insurance, I walked out of the hospital without paying a cent of what would have been an enormous bill.

Thinking back on why I got DCS, I can only attribute it to being tired. I didn’t expect it to happen, but I am so grateful that we had DAN insurance and pleased with what an exceptional insurance company they are to deal with. We’ve had a few odd incidents over the years when we’ve needed our DAN insurance for other things, and DAN has always been there for us quickly and easily. 

A few days after my incident, one of my dive buddies was biking as I walked along the Malecón. He stopped and walked with me for a bit. I told him about getting DCS and asked if he had DAN insurance. He said he didn’t, so I made him promise that he’d sign up before his next dives. 

I will continue to be a walking advertisement for DAN and encourage my fellow divers to get dive accident insurance because (like me) they may never see an incident coming. Thanks, DAN! AD

© Alert Diver — Q3 2023