Rescue Diver: Mission Accomplished!

Madam J reporting in on completion of my primary mission here in St. Martin: to become an official Rescue Diver. Rescue Diver courses require an Emergency Responder course to be taken beforehand, but I was able to study both with instructors Chris and Sally Davies at Octopus Diving. I crammed like mad for 4 days at home, then arrived here on 3/10/09. I continued to study the Emergency Responder and Rescue Diver books, and through the next few days Chris went over the Emergency Responder knowledge reviews and skills with me: artificial respiration and chest compressions (CPR), how to maintain a patient’s lifeline through Basic Life Support and primary care, the use of barriers, how to assess emergency situations, how to recognize and provide primary emergency care for cardiac arrest, respiratory arrest, stroke, shock, spinal cord injuries, serious bleeding, and tons more. I became quite close with Rescusi Annie, a rescue doll used to practice skills. Chris also created various emergency scenarios where I’d come in, stop, assess the situation, decide if it was safe to approach, and then develop and deploy a correct plan of action based on what I observed and discovered through primary assessment. After an intense schedule of classes and reviews, I took and passed my Emergency Responder Exam. Whoo!

Then we began knowledge reviews for Rescue Diver, and Chris quizzed me verbally about the correct procedures for various scenarios: tired diver on surface, panicked diver on surface, unresponsive diver underwater, injuries from marine life like jellyfish, sea urchins, sharks, and many more. On 3/12/09 Chris and JP took me out in the boat to Creole Rock and Petit Plage for intense, hands-on training sessions! We did self-rescue techniques first, and then we moved on to victim scenarios. JP made a superb victim, particularly shining in the “tired diver” situations, as he was in fact quite worn out from the night before. Very method. I learned and practiced non-swimming assists, like extension, reach, and throwing assists, and in-water rescue techniques and assists for tired divers on the surface, the correct ways to control and assist active and passive panicked divers on the surface, how to escape from a panicked diver and regain control, how to recognize an unresponsive diver underwater and how to assist them. I also practiced what I found to be the most exhausting and physically demanding skill: the missing unresponsive diver. This rescue scenario involves every single skill you use when a diver is missing, from assessing the situation, alerting emergency services, briefing search teams or a buddy search team, employing search patterns, locating the diver, establishing unresponsiveness at depth, making a safe, controlled emergency ascent while protecting the victim’s airway if necessary, and checking for breathing and responsiveness again on the surface after dropping weights and establishing full positive buoyancy for yourself and the victim. Then if the victim is still nonbreathing, getting someone on boat or shore to alert Emergency Services asap, then beginning rescue breaths using a pocket mask or mouth to mouth, while towing the victim as quickly as possible to shore, removing your own equipment while swimming and maintaining proper rescue breaths and an open airway. Then, when you get to shore, you must choose the best exit, give two good rescue breaths, and in 30 seconds, remove the victim’s gear and haul him through the surf and up the beach, where you begin CPR, oxygen treatment, and maintaining the lifeline until EMS arrive. It’s really hard to swim that far while towing and rescue breathing, and then the lift and drag up the beach through the surf is truly back-wrenching and frustrating, especially if the victim is bigger than you. But your adrenalin is pumping, and you find a way to make it happen, and even if, say, you keep falling on your butt as you heave the victim through the surf, you make sure the victim falls on top of you to protect their airway, and keep going.

Over the next few days I practiced my skills, studied, and nursed my sore muscles and back.

On 3/17/09 I had my final practical Rescue Diver Exam. We returned to Creole Rock and Petit Plage. This time I had two victims: JP and another Chris, who dives frequently with Octopus and volunteered to be another victim. I’d go in the bow of the boat and plug my ears, and Chris Davies would give JP and the other Chris scenarios to act out. Then I’d have to assess what was going on when the action began, and apply the proper rescue. I think my favorite scenario was the second “diving with a group when something goes wrong” situation…JP tricked me into looking away from him by motioning me to come look at something on a piece of coral. Then when I looked back at him to motion, “what, there’s nothing there,” he had begun faking that he had a dive knife stuck in his thigh, yelping realistically in pain. Immediately I began cracking up, so my mask filled with water and I cleared it as I assessed the situation and swam to his assistance. I made a safe and controlled ascent to the surface with him, applying direct pressure to the leg without moving the knife, and then conducted a primary assessment to maintain his lifeline, during which he kept whimpering like a dog with its tail caught in the door, and both of us were laughing hysterically. Since primary assessment revealed no other immediately life-threatening conditions, I alerted the boat to call EMS and prepare emergency equipment, asked JP to apply direct pressure while I towed him to the boat.

I successfully completed all rescue scenarios (though I had to repeat the last one with the beach tow), passing the practical exam! I took my written exam a few days later, and passed with a 96%. So I am now an official rescue diver!

I’ll post more updates and add photos when I get home tonight. With the rescue courses, and my work projects it was a little too crazy to update from here. So keep checking back!

One Response to “Rescue Diver: Mission Accomplished!”

  1. jastereo Says:

    Congrats, epic post. You had me at “the use of barriers” and “as he was in fact quite worn out from the night before. Very method.” Your value to the surprisingly (neh shockingly) dangerous field of ESS should not be understated.