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With the noted absence of the three witches, I shall name the place – El Gouna in Egypt. When? 10 years and more ago.
The hurly-burly was done after week one, and the Antinal and Dioralyte had got me back to near normal in readiness for diving in the remaining half of my two-week trip to this fantastic dive destination. It had been a good few months since I had been in the water, so after a check dive and a second sensible dive on day 1, day two beckoned – a proper dive to start the day off with! I jumped in and took a steady descent to 35 metres. My computer tells me that I spent only 4 minutes at depth, and had a very slow and gentle ascent to the shallows, where I spent an hour at between 15 and 8 metres, having a ball on a beautiful reef in bright sunlight. It was one of those dives where I was truly gutted to have to surface and get back on the boat, but battles have to be lost and won I suppose…..
So this is where the next battle began – I got a bend. My peripheral vision became blurred and sparkly (although no dagger before mine eyes I am pleased to report), followed by tingling in my fingers, and then within 10 minutes, acute pain in my elbows, wrists and shoulders, accompanied by tightness across my chest. I suspected that I had a bend, as all of the symptoms told me so, and relayed my suspicions to the boat crew – I was given water, sat in the shade, and was told to wait the 10 minutes that it would take to get back to shore where I could have some oxygen if I still felt less than proper.
By the time we got off the boat, I did feel better – almost back to my norm (which isn’t that good – too much rugby in my youth) so being a stubborn so and so, I brushed it off, went back to my Hotel and clambered into bed with my denial hat firmly in place and some brufen to combat the nasty headache I had also developed. Notice ‘denial’ and ‘dunce’ (to cite just one example) begin with the same letter……
In the early hours of the morning however, I woke up in the same pain in my arm joints, so finally took off my denial hat, and phoned DAN with whom I have always been insured. Within 10 minutes, I had been called back by a hyperbaric Doctor, and referred to the chamber at the El Gouna Hospital. A taxi picked me up (all arranged by DAN) and drove me the 5 minute trip to the excellent facilities there.
And this is where the real issue began – it wasn’t the two sessions I had to undergo in the pot that had the biggest impact, or the pain, nerves, fear or the boredom of being stuck in a metal tube alone for the best part of a day – it was the rehydration ‘therapy’ that I underwent.
Upon arrival at the chamber reception, I was given two big bottles of water, and told to drink them. On top of the 4 litres I had consumed overnight, the vitamin injections, and the saline drip, my kidneys were now starting to float. Then, another bottle was downed before entering the chamber, where there were three more bottles of the same size to keep me company during my first 7 hour stint! By my maths, that is 12 litres of water that I had drunk or had to drink, and this is on top of the ‘self-medication’ I had done with my own bottles! I am sure I had developed the physique of a Sumo wrestler by this stage, but my problems were only just beginning!
However, I was in safe hands, getting treatment (and I must say that after having been at ‘depth’ for less than 15 minutes, I was pain free – amazing!), and had a book to read. Breathing O2 for 20 minutes out of every 30 was a little tiresome due to the weight of the mask, but I was on the mend – that is until my bladder decided to shout at me!
Just like one of those so-called MENSA tests on your social media pages, I now had to work out how to dispose of 6-8 litres of water into the single one litre pee bottle!
So the first ‘drain’ wasn’t too much of an issue, and I am about 45 minutes in to a 7 hour session. That said, the waste bottle is now full, and I still have roughly 6 litres of water in my bladder, and three full bottles of water in front of me. And you know what it is like – once you break the seal….!
90 minutes in, and I am ready to burst again, so I have to drink 2 more litres to free up another bottle, only for me to fill it right up immediately.
By two hours in, I am starting to calculate the PPPH (projected pee per hour) ratio, combine it with the DTFW (Drink the Water) and subtract the HMPCIA (how much pee can I absorb) coefficient.
At three and a half hours in, the doc comes over the speaker and says I only have two more hours to go before they start the ascent, so I am more than relieved (ouch – sorry!) and adjust my calculations – At four hours in, I have drunk 9 litres of water, and disposed of 3, so I am still carrying my core of 6. I have one full bottle of water left, and one that is half full – the third is off colour for water, and not to be drunk, and the same goes for the original pee bottle too, which is sitting precariously on the floor as far away from me as possible – I am super clumsy! So, to be able to pee again, which I MUST do at this stage, I need to drink another litre of water!
This I do of course, and then immediately fill the empty two litre bottle up again – my maths tells me that I now have 5 litres within me, but I have no more PBS (pee bottle space) – the good news is that I only have 2 more hours to go before they bring me up to the surface again. So the next 90 minutes are spent concentrating on my book again (now starting it for the second time) and trying to relax about the pee-bottle situation.
It didn’t work – 40 minutes later, the dam was about to break again, and I had only managed to drink a measly half a litre more (breathing O2 is thirsty work, but not that thirsty!) So it was back to drinking another litre and a half before I could pee again………not the easiest of tasks I can assure you, but I did it, much to the relief of my kidneys.
The problem now came down to the fact that I still had 5 litres in my bladder, and no PBS left, and still had another 30 minutes before the ascent. Manageable perhaps? Categorically, NO! The ascent took over an hour, and I now know more about displacement theory than Archimedes himself.
By the time the doors opened, I could barely walk. My fingers were numb, my spine had been removed, tied in a knot and re-inserted without anaesthetic and my kidneys were screaming at me – this was the most pain I had ever suffered, and I am no stranger to A+E or the orthopaedic surgeon’s blade either………a beaming smile from my Doctor together with a request to come and have a seat got the only response that this story could end with – growled though clenched teeth was a very deliberate ‘Piss Off!’
After all, fair is foul, and foul is fair.
All joking aside, I learnt some very serious lessons through this experience – never doubt or deny any potential symptoms of DCS. Never take for granted that you are OK if your dive profile is OK – I had spent a week with a dodgy stomach, and although I felt better, I had expelled all of the electrolytes, salts et al from my body, resulting in the copious fluids I was drinking (as I always do when diving) not being absorbed properly. I got a bend in my shoulder as a result of scar tissue from a previous injury combined with dehydration, two of the most common contributors of DCS perhaps, and yet my dive profile was as conservative as it could have been. I now pop a fizzy multi-vitamin tablet full of electrolytes and scientific stuff into a bottle of water every day leading up to, during and after a dive trip just to make sure I am able to metabolise fluids properly.
Dive safe everybody!
The Scuba Genies
Exceptional photographs highlight how innovative marine experts and scientists take the pulse of the ocean by exploring ecosystems, studying the movement of species, or revealing the hidden biodiversity of coral reefs. Scientific discoveries are more important than ever for the protection and sustainable conservation of our Marine World Heritage. This memorable exhibition comes ahead of the launch, in 2021, of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (“Ocean Decade”). The exhibition was jointly developed by UNESCO and the Principality of Monaco.
The 50 marine sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, distributed across 37 countries, include a wide variety of habitats as well as rare marine life still largely unknown. Renowned for their unmatched beauty and emblematic biodiversity, these exceptional ecosystems play a leading role in the field of marine conservation. Through scientific field research and innovation, concrete actions to foster global preservation of the ocean are being implemented locally in these unique natural sites all over the world. They are true symbols of hope in a changing ocean.
Since 2017, the Principality of Monaco supports UNESCO to strengthen conservation and scientific understanding of the marine sites inscribed on the World Heritage List. This strategic partnership allows local management teams to benefit from the results obtained during the scientific missions of Monaco Explorations. The partnership also draws international attention to the conservation challenges facing the world’s most iconic ocean sites.
The exhibition invites viewers to take a passionate dive into the heart of the scientific missions led by Monaco Explorations in four marine World Heritage sites: Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (Philippines), Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary (Colombia), Rock Islands Southern Lagoon (Palau), and the Lagoons of New Caledonia: Reef Diversity and Associated Ecosystems (France). It is also an opportunity to discover the work of a megafauna census; the study of the resilience of coral reefs and their adaptation in a changing climate; the exploration of the deep sea; and the monitoring of large marine predators through satellite data.
To visit the Digital Exhibition click here.
Join Richard Cullen from Deptherapy for the final part of his Blog about the charity’s recent expedition to Roots Red Sea, El Quseir, Egypt.
Deptherapy expeditions do not just magically happen, they need planning and they need funding. This expedition was funded by our long-term partners the Veterans’ Foundation. The funding is part of a grant they awarded us for programmes this year, which were then put on hold because of COVID.
All charities in the Armed Forces’ Sector are struggling for funds. Deptherapy desperately needs support going forward and every penny counts.
We know what we do works and at the end of this blog you will find details of the research studies into Deptherapy’s programmes and how they impact on the lives of our beneficiaries. This includes details that are hot off the press about the latest study that reports that what we offer through scuba diving and 24/7 support has benefits beyond those found in other sporting rehabilitation programmes.
Well tomorrow we fly home, late in the evening with the journey home for some of the guys who live up North taking around 15 hours after leaving Roots.
We want to make the most of today but with the tide running we are not going to be able to dive until later this morning which means only two dives today.
Things, however are really busy over at the dive centre with Swars and Oatsie putting their sidemount kit together for their training dives with Steve Rattle leading to their RAID sidemount qualification. It has been nice to be able to offer the guys this extra training, given the amount of work they have put in this week. They have needed to get through their theory quickly but given the RADI online learning system this has not been too arduous.
Steve came diving with us yesterday to get some more photos and was really amazed at the progress that Corey had made. He was quite open in his praise, as in his view Corey has gone from a non-diver to being a very competent OW diver capable of diving, unsupervised, with a buddy. Praise indeed.
Other than the sidemount course we are diving as a group today: Corey, Keiron, Michael, Moudi and me. Corey has been given some tasks – SMB deployment on both dives and the afternoon dive will be a ‘naturalist dive’. Guy Henderson has set Corey a task: ‘to identify three species of fish and record the time into the dive and the depth at which each one was spotted’. Guy runs Marine Biology courses on the reef and knows where the fish are to be found, how long into the dive, and at what time.
The two Toms are getting put through their paces. They have walked their cylinders down to the entry point, but Steve sends them back to the dive centre to collect other kit they should have brought with them.
Our general dive goes well and the sidemount guys appear from their sidemount dive some 90 minutes after dipping their heads under the water.
Lots of bubbly chat at lunchtime, a group of really happy divers. Corey really has benefited from the week and over lunch thanked the team for making him a diver. He has very quickly become part of the family and after returning home he published an amazing post on Facebook about his experience. Corey really gets Deptherapy and had soon realised that we see past mental and physical injuries and see the person inside and work with that person. He also realised that we want beneficiaries to see their fellow beneficiaries in the same light. He knows he now has another ‘family’ – a family of brothers in arms who have two things in common, they served their country and they have suffered life changing injuries or illnesses.
Back into the water for the afternoon dive and Corey identifies the fish and records the details on a slate. The two Tom’s complete their second dive and qualify as RAID Sidemount Divers. Great!
Kit packed away and it is time to return to the camp for a few well-earned last night drinks.
I am often asked why we use Roots as our exclusive base for diving. I have mentioned before that it offers us an ideal retreat, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We are secluded and there are no distractions such as late-night bars etc.
The second reason is the amazing welcome we receive from Steve, Clare, Moudi and the team. We have been going to Roots since 2014 and many of the staff have become good friends, they understand our needs and are the friendliest people you could ever wish to meet.
The third reason is the huge investment Steve and Clare have made in making the resort and dive centre accessible for those with physical injuries including those who need to use wheelchairs. All our beneficiaries can enjoy Roots and, in fact, love it here. The reef is perfect for us and in non-COVID times we can travel to the Salem Express and other dive sites to enjoy more of the Red Sea experience.
After discussions with the team I was very proud to be able to tell Corey that his progress had been such that we were inviting him on the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust sponsored two-week Marine Biology Course at Roots in June 2021. There is lots of homework to undertake under the guidance of Dr Debbie McNeill of Open Oceans and Corey will be sent the Red Sea Guide which is the basis for study.
While on that programme, Corey with fellow beneficiary Dale Mallin, will complete his RAID Advanced 35 course. This all builds to a 10-day Red Sea liveaboard in 2022, onboard Roots’ new boat Big Blue where 18 beneficiaries will compare the coral and aquatic life on the wrecks of the SS Thistlegorm and the less known SS Turkia that is to be found in the Gulf of Suez and is rarely dived.
Paul Rose, our Vice President, is supporting the programme and is seeking the support of the UN and the Royal Geographical Society. A comprehensive report will be submitted to our partners in the project and to the Egyptian Authorities.
What we do works:
In recent years there have been three academic studies into our work:
2018 – A study by a team from the University of Sheffield Medical School.
2019 – A study by The Centre of Trauma at Nottingham University.
Both these studies reported very positively on Deptherapy’s work both underwater but also in terms of the provision of 24/7 support.
The following is from our press release which was issued on 26th October:
‘A new study into Scuba Diving Rehabilitation Charity Deptherapy’s approach to supporting Armed Forces veterans with psychological injuries such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) through the medium of scuba diving has been carried out by Petra Walker in conjunction with Hanna Kampman of the Posttraumatic Growth Research Unit at the University of East London.
This study, which used Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), demonstrates that scuba diving has rehabilitation benefits beyond those found in other forms of sporting rehabilitation exercise. IPA is a qualitative methodology that examines the experiences of participants and has been used in previous studies of Posttraumatic Growth (PTG) in para-athletes.
Petra is an experienced diver herself and was exploring the wellbeing aspects of scuba diving as part of her Masters in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology when she came across a previous study on Deptherapy. Past studies have mainly focused on the medical aspects of diving, so the opportunity to examine the mental health side of rehabilitative scuba diving was impossible to ignore. The full study is currently embargoed until it is published at a future date in an academic journal, but it follows similar academic research into the work of Deptherapy by the University of Sheffield Medical School (2018) and the University of Nottingham (2019).’
This is amazing news and sets us apart from other sporting rehabilitation programmes.
We are currently working with our VP Richard Castle who is a Consultant Psychologist and our Dive Medicine Advisor Mark Downs to identify further areas of psychological and physical dive related research.
We end the week on a happy note. A young man who has learned to dive properly with a RAID OW 20 certification, a new RAID Master Rescue Diver, two new RAID Sidemount Divers, 5 new RAID O2 Providers, many assessments for our DMs but most of all a week of learning, of making new friendships, renewing old friendships, and building on our family ethos.
For us, Deptherapy is a journey, a journey that continues to push boundaries in the use of scuba diving in the rehabilitation of those suffering life changing mental and/or physical challenges. On our journey we want to change the way the scuba diving industry views diving for those with disabilities.
In the new year, we will be launching, with our diver training agency partners RAID, a new and exciting adaptive teaching programme that will offer diving to the disabled community. We can’t wait to share it with you!
Find out more about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education at www.deptherapy.co.uk
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