EDC en Cozumel

Miembros del personal monitorean y se comunican con pacientes en la cámara de Costamed.

I began diving in 2013 at age 44. Diving had always intrigued me, and once I got started, I was hooked. There’s nothing else like it. Since that time, diving has inspired my travel, taking me to Palau, Thailand, Socorro, Bonaire and beyond.

For a Midwesterner like myself, however, Cozumel is among the best of dive destinations. It’s close, it’s affordable, and the diving is spectacular.

This past Christmas I visited Cozumel for a week of drift diving. I’ve been to the island several times and always come away with a renewed sense of appreciation for its beauty and awe for the eagle rays, sea turtles and other marine life that call the waters home.

Our first morning dive was a checkout dive to determine everyone’s skill level before the week of diving. It was easy, with a maximum depth of 75 feet (23 meters) for 50 minutes. The current was slight, and the visibility was spectacular — an ideal first dive. It closed with a nice, slow ascent and a three-minute safety stop.

Un buzo nada sobre un arrecife de coral que brilla con los colores del arcoíris de abundantes esponjas en Cozumel, México.
Un buzo nada sobre un arrecife de coral que brilla con los colores del arcoíris de abundantes esponjas en Cozumel, México.

When we returned to the boat, I removed my wetsuit and stashed my gear. I felt a sudden tingling in my right foot followed by a dull ache in my knee, as if I had just finished a long run. I assumed the worst, thinking I had decompression sickness (DCS). When I reviewed the dive in my mind, however, that seemed impossible. I’ve had similar or more challenging dive profiles hundreds of times. Furthermore, I was diving 32 percent nitrox. Since most of the divers in our group were on air, we all dived an air profile, and I use a conservative dive computer.

Debido a todos estos factores, descarté mi preocupación inicial; después de un intervalo de superficie de una hora, hice el segundo buceo sin mayor reflexión. Al día siguiente, hice dos buceos matutinos con perfiles de profundidad similares. El cosquilleo en mi pie había desaparecido, pero la rodilla seguía molestándome. Simplemente se sentía “raro”, pero no con el típico dolor muscular o articular. En ese momento comencé a entender el viejo dicho que afirma que el primer síntoma de la EDC es la negación.

When I returned to my hotel, I called DAN® with what I assumed was an overabundance of caution. I spoke with a medic, who patiently noted my dive profiles and symptoms and then calmly but firmly said, “You need to get to a hospital.”

Esas no son palabras que alguien quiera escuchar, especialmente cuando está de vacaciones.

By the time I arrived at Costamed, the recommended health care provider in Cozumel, DAN had already contacted them, and Dr. Jorge Darío Gómez Castillo was waiting for me. My first question to him was, “Are you a diver?” He smiled, nodded and performed some balance and reflex tests. He told me to close my eyes and hold my hands in front of me with palms up. I was sure I could do that, but I almost fell over, and he had to catch me. I finally realized how bad my condition was.

En efecto, tenía un caso leve de EDC. Me administraron líquidos por vía intravenosa y oxígeno al 100 por ciento de inmediato y me recomendaron una terapia de recompresión con una tabla 6 de la Marina de los Estados Unidos en la cámara hiperbárica. No sentí dolor en ningún momento, sólo fue un poco aburrido e incómodo. Pasé el tiempo mirando las películas de John Wick movies with the chamber tender, although my view of the screen was only through the chamber’s porthole. My knee pain lessened throughout the treatment.

El autor se prepara para su tratamiento en cámara.
El autor se prepara para su tratamiento en cámara.

Pasé la noche en Costamed y me realizaron un examen posterior al tratamiento a la mañana siguiente. El dolor en la rodilla había desaparecido por completo. Me dieron el alta con una recomendación de no bucear hasta que me sometiera a un control de seguimiento con un médico y recibiera la autorización para regresar a la práctica de buceo. Pasé el resto de la semana en la superficie, desilusionado por no poder bucear, pero agradecido de estar bien.

Mi caso de EDC fue leve, pero perfectamente podría haber sido mucho peor. Cuando recuerdo mi buceo y mis acciones previas, me quedo en blanco respecto a qué pudo haber desencadenado el incidente. No hubo ninguna violación en mi perfil de buceo ni ninguna circunstancia agravante en relación con las condiciones de buceo. El único factor contribuyente posible que se me ocurrió fue estar potencialmente deshidratado. Viajé de Chicago a Cozumel el día antes de bucear y probablemente no tomé suficiente agua como lo hubiera hecho normalmente.

The reality is that not identifying a cause should not change your response to experiencing symptoms. There’s a tendency to not talk about getting DCS — the prevailing wisdom being that the diver must have been at fault and made a mistake. Diver error is not always the case, and this shaming is counterproductive to divers seeking treatment when they think they may have DCS. Dr. Castillo said that 80 percent of the patients he treats for DCS were diving within safe profiles.

No debí haber esperado hasta el segundo día para recibir tratamiento simplemente porque creí que era imposible que tuviera una EDC.

I have two pieces of advice for my fellow divers. First, if you think you have DCS, there’s a good chance you are correct. Just because you followed every rule and dived conservatively doesn’t mean it can’t happen to you. Follow your gut instinct and call DAN. Don’t try to rationalize your way out of making the smart choice for your health. A minor case of DCS left untreated can become highly problematic.

Second, make sure your DAN membership and dive accident insurance are current. I can’t say enough about how quickly and thoroughly DAN handled my case, helping me navigate health care in a country where the logistics would have been daunting. Not having to be concerned about paying out of pocket for medical care was a huge load off my mind. I had enough things to deal with without adding that into the mix.

Mi objetivo para el año 2021 es obtener mi certificación de divemaster y, cuando lo haga, será en Cozumel. No hay ninguna duda de que mi cobertura de seguro contra accidentes de buceo y mi membresía de DAN estarán actualizadas.

Muchas gracias a DAN, el Dr. Castillo y Costamed de Cozumel. Les deseo a todos un buceo seguro.

© Alert Diver — Q2 2021

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