The first in a series of three excerpts from Simon’s new book: Scuba Exceptional…
This is Cat’s story:
“I was swimming along, relaxed and enjoying the dive. There was not much happening and the thought crossed my mind that I had recently allowed my fitness levels to lapse. So I thought I’d do a little power finning to build up my leg muscles and get the blood flowing. I set off, powering my way past the other members of the dive team and feeling like I was getting a good workout. I built up a bit of a rhythm and was quite pleased at how well I was keeping my breathing under control. Maybe I was fitter than I thought? After a few minutes of this, I told myself enough was enough and paused to wait for the others to catch up.
That was when I suddenly felt heat suffusing my chest and spreading up to my neck and face. I started panting. I knew I was hyperventilating and that, if I just forced myself to exhale and inhale fully a few times, eventually the panting would stop. I tried to regain control but I could not lose the feeling that no matter how much I breathed in, I still had to have more. I knew that my regulator was working properly and I knew I had plenty of air left in my cylinder, but it just was not enough. I felt confined by the mask on my face. I just wanted to rip it off and get to the surface as quickly as I could to get air, fresh air, all the air I desperately needed.
But, despite these almost over-powering thoughts, I somehow resisted the urge to bolt. I knew that it would be completely the wrong thing to do. I turned and found my husband hovering next to me. I grabbed him and just hung on to him while I recovered my breath and my senses. It took a few minutes before I was back to normal, but I was still a little shaken by the realisation of how stupid I had been and of how my sudden illogical urge had brought me so close to panic. I am not normally a panicker!”
Narcosis can persuade us to do some strange things. In this case, it induced Cat to push herself to the point where her exertions loaded her bloodstream with so much carbon dioxide that she was on the verge of panic. She did remarkably well to resist the temptation to bolt for the surface. The advice in your dive manual regarding what to do when this happens, i.e. stop, breathe, hold on to a rock, makes it sound easy. It is not easy. It is incredibly hard to convince your intellect to over-ride the chemically generated urges produced by your autonomic nervous system, but it has to be done. As long as you have plenty of air in your cylinder, you NEVER head for the surface until you have your head together. Cat did it, so can you!
This piece is an extract from the chapter “Out of Air with Plenty to Breathe” in Simon Pridmore’s new book Scuba Exceptional – Become the Best Diver You Can Be available now from Amazon, iTunes, Kobo and other online bookstores.