Becoming a Scuba Instructor.
The path to becoming an instructor has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I’ve gotten to see and do so many things that most people can only dream of. It all started during my junior year of high school when I first tested the waters of SCUBA. As part of my marine science class, I was able to participate in a Discover Scuba course. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but once I got in the water and started learning skills and getting used to the gear, I knew that a passion was born within me. For me, it felt natural – like I was born to scuba dive. From that day in Discover Scuba, I knew I wanted to further pursue my diving career and become a certified diver. However, it wouldn’t be until my sophomore year of college that I would get the chance to make that dream a reality.
During my sophomore year of college at the University of South Carolina, I was introduced to the USC Scuba Club. I went to the interest meeting where I found out that, not only did the club coordinate dive trips, but they also coordinated certification classes so that new uncertified members could earn their open water certification. Needless to say, I joined and immediately signed up for the open water certification course. To say I was excited would be an understatement – I was more than ready to start my journey into the amazing world of SCUBA.
Enter John Baker, Amanda Baker, and Scuba John’s Dive shop. They were the shop that the club was using to certify us (little did I know, this shop would become so much more to me!). During the classroom session, I hung onto every word they said and absorbed the information like a sponge. Then came the pool session, and I felt exactly the way I did years before during Discover Scuba, like this sport was made just for me. We went over the skills needed to be an open water diver and got to try everything out in the safety of a pool, which was great, but I was ready for more. I couldn’t wait to go deeper and be able to experience the openness of the underwater world. My first taste of this vast underwater world would come through the checkout dives at Lake Jocassee. Here I would also meet Bill Routh and become familiar with Lake Jocassee Dive shop, who would be conducting our charters. Once out on the lake, we dove down to the training platform and went through a skills test. In total we went through 4 training dives over the course of a weekend. The last 2 dives were more fun based than skill based, as we had already passed our skill training. These 2 dives would be my first experiences in diving and they were amazing. We saw a sunken boat, played basketball underwater, and fed the fish (seeing/interacting with the fish was my favorite part because I absolutely love animals). From then on, my scuba career would only flourish.
After becoming Open Water certified, I became an officer for the USC Scuba Club. My position as an officer was to coordinate the certification classes, which would ultimately lead to many opportunities that I would not have been exposed to had I not become an officer. Through setting up classes with Scuba John’s Dive shop, I built a relationship with John and Amanda, who would become my mentors and major players in helping me become the diver I am today. Around January of 2016, they offered me an internship at the shop, which I gladly accepted. Through this internship, I would be able to further my scuba career by obtaining my Advanced certification and from there, working my way up to Divemaster, over the course of almost 3 years.
During the time leading up to my Divemaster certification, as well as afterwards, I gained more experience diving than I ever thought I would when I was just beginning. I’ve gotten to dive in freshwater lakes, springs, rivers, low visibility, the ocean and various other conditions thanks to John giving me the opportunities to go. I’ve gotten to help with classes, learning how to work with people and help teach them. Though a lot of my experience I’ve gotten from just diving and learning first-hand, I owe a lot of my experience with helping people to Amanda. Through Divemastering and helping her in the pool and on checkout dives, I gained valuable first-hand experience helping people solve issues they may encounter while learning to dive. It was from working by her side and learning from her that I’ve developed confidence in teaching others. Because of John and Amanda’s mentoring and instruction, I felt confident going into my Instructor Development Course (IDC).
After becoming a Divemaster and seeing how you can make a career with SCUBA, I decided that I wanted to pursue becoming an Instructor. I wanted to be able to share my love of the sport with others and help them be able to experience the underwater world for themselves. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I believed it would be worth it. When I first started my IDC, I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t be good enough, but as the course went on, I realized I didn’t give myself enough credit. Because of my real-life experiences that I had accumulated up to that point, I was able to talk confidently during my presentations and I knew how to handle underwater situations during our open water skill examinations. By the end of my IDC, I had gained a new confidence and now I am officially an Instructor for Scuba John’s Dive Shop. When I first started out, I never imagined I would come this far as a diver. Becoming an instructor has been a huge accomplishment for me and I’m very proud to have earned this certification. I’m excited to help people start their own SCUBA journey and I can’t wait to see where this chapter of my life takes me!
Treatment of Decompression Illness in the Faraway
Imagine that you are on a dive vacation off the coast of the Solomon Islands, when you notice
your right arm becoming progressively weaker by the minute. The symptoms occurred
approximately 15 minutes after surfacing from an otherwise uneventful dive that was made
using EANx 32. What could be wrong? If you thought decompression illness (DCI), then you
would be correct. What’s next? Our training tells us, to place the patient on 100% oxygen and
prepare for evacuation to the closest facility that could arrange for recompression. Did I mention
that the closest hyperbaric chamber is 1500 miles away and only accessible via aircraft? What
The urge for exploration and discovery has led many divers to obtain additional education in
technical diving to expand the depths that can be explored. Along the same lines, divers are
traveling to more remote locations that may take several days to reach and therefore will take a
day or two of travel to evacuate. The combination of deeper, longer dive profiles coupled with a
remote setting, can increase the risk of decompression sickness and its long-term effects.
We know from our open water training that the biggest threat to a diver’s health comes from
breathing inert gas (nitrogen) at depth. Decompression illness occurs when the inert gas causes
injury to the diver. It can either be from pulmonary over-inflation syndrome, i.e. arterial gas
embolism, or decompression sickness, which is when nitrogen bubbles form in supersaturated
tissues. These bubbles effect the tissue where they are located by mechanical, embolic or
It is well recognized that recompression is the treatment for decompression sickness since the
U.S. Navy recommended it in the early 1900’s. Recompression in a chamber while breathing
100% oxygen is similar to being at 2.8 atmospheres absolute (60 feet of seawater).
Recompression serves to compress bubble size and increase the diffusion of oxygen into the
cells and nitrogen out. Additionally, increased oxygen mitigates inflammation that occurs when
the body recognizes a bubble as being a “foreign invader”.
The effectiveness of treatment is tied to the time from initial onset of symptoms to the initiation
of treatment. We also know that 97% of symptoms will be relieved if a diver with DCI gets
treated within the first 6 hours of symptom onset. This drops down to the mid-seventies if the
diver gets treated later than 6 hours. When the diver is in a remote location where a
recompression chamber isn’t nearby, timely treatment can be difficult.
In water recompression with 100% oxygen to treat decompression illness has emerged as an
alternative to prolonged evacuation to a recompression chamber. This involves resubmerging a
diver with decompression illness back into the water, which effectively recompresses the diver,
in an attempt to reduce or eliminate symptoms. Even though it has been used as early at 1924,
the diving medical community has not widely accepted its utility. The negative stance likely is
related to the potential complications. The list includes: drowning, oxygen toxicity, worsening of
decompression sickness due to additional ongasing, hypothermia, and dangerous marine life.
These risks are mitigated by using 100% oxygen to prevent additional ongasing as well as using
a full face mask (FFM) to prevent drowning in the event the diver becomes unconscious.
Additionally, appropriate thermal protection can be used if the decompression time is long.
Oxygen toxicity is also mitigated by using the FFM or gag strap and keeping the maximum
depth to 20 fsw (1.6 ATA) as well as having the ability to provide and air break.
There are also contraindications to placing a diver back into the water. They include: cardiac
arrest, airway problems, severe rapid breathing, shock/clinical instability, vertigo, altered mental
status and coughing up blood. Some relative contraindications are: hypothermia, anxiety,
isolated hearing loss and lack of diver support or training.
There are multiple protocols that are available, all of which involve return to the water with either
a gag strap or FFM, and an adequate volume of oxygen, a stable platform, and a tender with a
tether. The tables suggest depths from 20-30 fsw breathing 100% oxygen (1.6 ATA- 1.9 ATA).
They require a certain time at that depth with a slow decompression on 100% oxygen until the
surface is reached. Even if symptoms resolve, most tables recommend follow up evacuation to
the recompression chamber.
With the increase in popularity of diving in general and technical diving in particular, along with
the ability to travel to remote locations, there is an increased risk of decompression illness.
When an event occurs, the diver has two choices: surface oxygen and evacuation with the
potential to delay recompression or reentry into the water for recompression. When a team has
adequate equipment and training, in water recompression gives one the peace of mind, knowing
that they have the skills to mitigate a decompression illness event in faraway places.
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