BECAUSE OF ITS WETNESS, a dive-boat is mostly a slippery place. Some may also find it difficult to balance because of wave-action. These and other conditions can lurk on deck potentially causing accidents and injuries.
Not long ago we reported on two occasions of ripped-off fingers, which struck us as pretty extraordinary cases (The High Price of Two Rings, April). Divers jumped off the boat and caught their wedding rings on protruberances.
Much more common are incidents like a finger being bruised or even crushed by the boat ladder after a dive – undoubtfully very painful.
Finger injuries are one thing, but having someone jumping on you, or being hit by a scuba tank, is something else. When head meets metal or tank hits spine, very serious injuries can occur. Some can be fixed, others can’t and the diver could end up with a permanent disability.
In one recent case a diver was hit on his head by the scuba-tank of another diver who had jumped off the boat later than the instructor had briefed the group. The victim continued to dive because he felt OK, but once back on the boat he developed a facial paralysis on one side of his face.
He was hospitalised, and months later the problem was persisting, indicating that the incident had caused neurological damage to his brain and the Nervus facialis that innervates the face muscles. This is a serious condition. It not only marks a person for life but also makes speaking, eating, and drinking very difficult, hampers the eye-closure reflex – and consigns scuba-diving to the past.
In another recent case a divemaster was hit in the neck by a tank when another diver jumped on him. Besides a two-minute period of unconsciousness and severe pain later on, he had one broken vertebra in his cervical spine that affected movement of one arm.
Two CT scans at an international hospital were needed to reveal the injury. Immediate neuro-surgery was required to fix it and prevent worse from happening.
The surgery went well. Several screws and a titanium plate in his spine, later, the divemaster is recuperating.
No-one wants this to happen on their holidays or at any other time. And no-one probably wants to be the diver doing this to others. Worst case is permanent paralysis, or even death.
So, how can we prevent accidents like this? Here are five key ways: