I’m not bent, it’s just this pain in my...
By Martin G Eversen
I got bent! Some might say that I deserved it because of my long dive profile, and some might say that it was a statistical inevitability for an active diver with many years under their belt. The wreck I got hit on was the Stolt Dagali, nothing crazy, maybe 130 feet to the sand. The seas were running only a foot, no current, warm. I slept well the night before, was well-hydrated and in good physical and mental condition. This was my second dive that day. Both dives were multilevel, starting near the bottom at about 125 feet and finishing with some time near the top of the wreck at about 60 feet.
My computers (I dive with two) showed I had a 12-minute decompression penalty. I made a very slow, controlled ascent and did my stops hanging from the line in perfect conditions. I carried a stage bottle of oxygen that I used during my decompression to help eliminate nitrogen and pad my hang. After my computers cleared, I spent an extra seven minutes hanging before surfacing. Back on the boat I felt fine and began to stow my gear. Then it happened. When I grabbed my doubles from the dressing table and swung them to the deck to secure them for the ride home, my right triceps started to burn. But I just figured I had pulled a muscle.
On the way home I took a few aspirin and relaxed in my bunk. The pain subsided. After I got home, stowed my gear and ate dinner, a couple aspirin again brought relief. I relaxed with a movie and eventually went to bed. I woke up at 4:30am and what had been a mild, localized pain was now intensified and radiating through my shoulder. At this point, I realized that what I had kept denying was probably true. I made a phone call and wound up in City Island, New York, taking a ride in their chamber. I went through a table six with four extensions. This kept me inside the tank almost nine hours. Over the next two days, I went through two perfusion treatments of approximately two hours each. I am happy to say that I seem to have made a 100 percent recovery.
When I first thought I had pulled a muscle on the boat, a little voice in the back of my head kept saying, Bends, bends, bends. But I denied it. I can’t blame being uninformed, I’m a master instructor and have taught hundreds of students over the past nine years about DCS. I kept telling myself that I have done the same type of dives hundreds of times without incident. Today was no different, and in many ways—weather, bottom time, etc.—a lot easier. So it must just be the muscle. When I think back now, I realize how afraid I’ve always been of being bent.
What I learned from my time at the chamber was that I was the rule and not the exception. Most people deny it, hope that it will just go away by itself, and don’t seek immediate help. Which finally brings me to my point: If you have any discomfort after any dive, DO NOT WAIT. Seek professional help, call DAN and let them decide. It might have only been a muscle pull but you can never be sure. When I arrived at the chamber, I didn’t know what to expect. I had only read about treatments, so I was apprehensive. But you know what? It was a piece of cake. After a quick but thorough exam, I changed into scrubs, jumped into the chamber and down we went. Totally painless. I was never made to feel like an incompetent dolt. I actually had a good time, although I wouldn’t recommend this as a way of meeting new friends. Not only did I learn about hyperbaric medicine, but I learned about other divers who get bent. Unless the hit is severe, people deny their problems and wait it out. Every day they wait they decrease their chance for a complete recovery and increase the amount of treatments necessary to achieve the best outcome. Optimally, treatment should begin within six hours.
Moral of the story: First, if you’re not a member of DAN or don’t have diving insurance, get it. Second, don’t deny it, don’t be macho, don’t worry what people will say, and don’t say this could never happen to me. Let a professional make the decision.