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Taking the road less traveled Spending a year in five continents to embrace my "inner turtle", to live simply, and to avoid being shark bait!

Dive course #3: Rescue diver

THAILAND | Saturday, 3 March 2012 | Views [310]

My next class, Rescue Diver, wasn't so popular, so I was the only student. Being a rescue diver included learning to be an emergency first responder on land, so the course started with watching another DVD (a poorly made video with bad actors acting out accidents), followed by a short lecture, a hands-on session on what to do in case of emergencies, including CPR training on a mannequin, and a multiple-choice exam. The instructor was the gal who resolved my diving book, Cathy; turned out she is actually a trained medical personnel from Britain, and ended up in Koh Tao after a visit (yup, the same theme as most divemasters). 

Once I passed the exam, it was rescue training in water. First day was training and practice in the pool.  There was M the instructor (another Brit) plus a divemaster trainee C (Canadian) who played the victim in all of the practices. We started with the basic: how to approach and assist a panic swimmer or a tired swimmer.  This was a great skill to have, I since panicked in the pool as a child, and when my mom tried to help me, I climbed on top of her fearing I'd drown, poor mom! After there, we moved on to rescue technique for an underwater and unresponsive diver, diver with bad cramps, and divers who may be out of air.  M was really good in breaking down the sequences; from finding an unresponsive diver underwater to getting him onto shore or into a boat require a lot of steps.  He broke them down and we practiced each breakout multiple times, and then he had me practice the entire scenario from beginning to end. By the time I pulled C out of the pool the second time (not easy, the guy was wet and playing dead) I was exhausted!

The next day we repeated the whole thing but in open water.  We got on the dive boat with other divers, and as soon as the boat anchored, C jumped into the water with no gear and pretended to be a swimmer screaming for help.  I jumped into the water after him, with fins and mask only, and "rescued" him by forcing him to take a floatation device. C did this several times just out of the blue, and each time I had to jump in after him to rescue him.

After several "panic swimmer" practices, we geared up for the underwater rescue scenarios. We were at a dive site named Mango Bay, at Koh Tao's northern end, and C played the role of a diver who ran out of air, had a foot cramp, was ascending uncontrollably, etc. Besides learning the rescue skills, the other hard part was learning how to communicate with my hands; I could imagine in a real scenario, a panic diver isn't going to be reasonable nor logical, so it'll be pertinent to communicate clearly and maybe even forcefully with hand signals.

The other scenarios we did were search patterns, which would be use to look for lost divers. I learned two patterns, both using compass: first was a continuous U-shape (east, south, east, north, east south, etc), and the second was an expanding square (east, south, west, north) with each square a few more kicks than the last. As I finished the second search pattern, there was C "playing dead" as the unresponsive diver. Here we go, the long sequence! First I held the regulator in his mouth from behind, then we ascended by inflating his BCD; once on the surface, I gave him rescue breaths as I removed all his gear and my gear, swam to the boat, and lifted him into the stairs of the boat by having him face me with his arms and legs wrapped around me. I must work on my quads more, there was no way I could lift him and go up the stairs to the boat! We did this twice, good practice but exhausting!

At the second dive site Twins, we did what M called "the dive from hell". What happened was he and C would do these crazy and stupid things and I would have to help them, like losing their mask, wearing the fins in their hand, loosening their BCD so the tank was loose, removing their regulator to give to a fish, ascending out of control, and so on. The two of them were so goofy, I had to stop laughing first before helping them (although it was rather hard to laugh with a regulator in my mouth).  After about 20 minutes, the "dive from hell" was over and we just had a nice, relaxing dive back to the boat. 

Back on land, I took and passed the multiple-choice exam, and I was certified! This was a tough course but the skills should be very useful. In talking with some folks later, specifically a couple who were both divemasters on holiday from the UK, I realized my learning would have been enhanced had I taken the rescue course after I've had more dives under my belt (more dives, more experiences on what could go wrong), but oh well! There would be plenty of dives to come this year.

Tags: koh tao, rescue dive

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