Dive Article written by Compass' mermaid Restuning Sandini as published in GuidePost Magazine
Mercedes Lackey said it well: “Adventure, yeah. I guess that's what you call it when everybody comes back alive.”
I was about to post article about the relation of breathing, yoga and diving, but then I heard some discussion regarding (scuba) diving safety around the town. Following the event of its citizen having Decompression Sickness (DCS) after a dive in Timor-Leste, an embassy has published a message to remind its citizen divers about the nonexistent of Recompression Chamber in Timor-Leste and the need of a dive insurance. Whilst I agree with their points, I am surprised that the note didn’t remind the divers to IMMEDIATELY contact dive doctor/medical facility if there is any DCS symptoms, nor did the note remind the divers to stay knowledgeable of this sport’s risks.
Not getting into too much details about DCS, it is basically caused by production of nitrogen bubbles in the circulation and tissues and this is related to the depth and time and the ascent rate. This can be life-threatening. Most cause of DCS? Diver error.
In my Open Water classes, I always point out that this risk is real and the only way to reduce DCS risk into zero is by not diving at all. In the unlikely event that it happens to you, the first step managing DCS is REALIZING that it happens. DCS ranges from mild to life-threatening. So any symptoms or signs of DCS must be followed up. Any symptoms, even if it seems small or silly. Many DCS victims received delayed treatment because the divers were on denial. Remember, every minutes counts. It can make a difference between permanent injury or speedy recovery, and to some extend it can be a difference between life to death. When you have DCS symptoms or signs happening after a dive, reach out immediately to medical facility and contact dive doctor and breathe O2. Be prepared to be evacuated to reach the nearest chamber, in Darwin or Bali. Whether or not you are covered by insurance.
Sometimes not acting promptly when having symptoms is also because of the lack of knowledge. Any well-trained scuba divers should know what Decompression Sickness is. However, I have been flabbergasted by some divers’ inadequate knowledge and inappropriate attitude. Just to mention one, recently a diver came to me to sign up for a dive trip. To be able to judge her skill and knowledge level, I asked to see her logbook, but she couldn’t show it and had no proof the twenty dives that she claimed she did. Certification card is a proof of training, and a logbook is a proof of your experience, it is two different things. During the conversation she also said that she doesn’t care about our dive planning and would go to the depth beyond her certification, up and down whenever she feels like it because it is her dive. This shows that she has no understanding of DCS risk and the consequences of a dive profile.
Despite of being a fun activity, diving is not a happy-go-lucky activity, therefore there is a need of proper training. It is a safe sport, but as other sports, there are risks involved. Understanding and respecting these risks are essential. Knowledge and training are fundamentals to avoid accidents.
I love the underwater world in this country. I think it is amazing that we have growing numbers of resident divers. I would like that we all keep this industry safe and fun. Every diver in Timor-Leste should dive safely, understand the risk, and be knowledgeable. Our dive-sites in Timor-Leste are on remote locations, yes. We have limited medical facility, yes. Having a recompression chamber would be fantastic, yes. But do we have to stop diving all together in Timor-Leste until then? No. Just be a skillful, smart, knowledgeable, responsible diver. Follow your training and never stay in denial when you have any symptoms. Accidents might happen, but it not the sport to blame. Nor the remote developing country. Let’s show the world that we dive safely in Timor-Leste, that we are prepared if accident happens. It is a great country with beautiful underwater life. Contact me if you want to upgrade your skills or knowledge, or have questions about DCS. In the meantime, safe splashing and keep it an Adventure please!
Love and peace, Underwater Safety Sergeant, the Mermaid ;)
Unieng – Restuning Sandini