>I surfaced and signaled for help. By the time we got the diver aboard the boat, he was showing signs of decompression sickness (DCS). The divemasters tended to him, and I contacted DAN® to arrange an evacuation.
>That event, which took place in the early 1990s, was the first time DAN's emergency medical support team was there for me. To ensure I was prepared for that sort of scenario is exactly why I became a DAN member in 1988.
>I never imagined how DAN would help me the most recent time I called on them. I was at a party one evening during the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA) annual trade show. One minute I felt fine, and the next I felt really strange. I was spatially disoriented and had difficulty keeping my balance.
>I fought the symptoms for a few minutes, but I couldn't will them away. I needed help getting back to my hotel room, and that journey took several hours, during which I had to sit down, put my head on a table and close my eyes. When I tried to walk I was told I was walking in a straight line, but I couldn't tell. My world felt surreal.
>I flew home to see my doctor as soon as I could. Based on my report and his exam, he sent me to a neurologist, an audiologist, a seizure specialist and an ophthalmologist. All were looking for tumors or other significant problems in my brain and my auditory and visual systems. This was serious stuff.
>As I went from specialist to specialist several times a week for almost two months, I heard statements such as, "If we see things we don't like today, we will take away your driver's license" and "This could end your diving career." I was scared — about my health and my future.
>I was also frustrated. When I tried to describe my symptoms, I felt there was a serious disconnect between what I was saying and what the doctors were willing to hear. I am not suggesting that the tests I had were unnecessary — of course we had to consider the possibility of a tumor or similar problem. But long before that night at the DEMA show I had experienced some things while diving that I thought might be relevant, and I wanted the doctors to listen. Every time I tried to discuss the issue with the specialists, however, I was told that my diving history was not relevant. I wasn't so sure about that.
>Nothing notable showed up on any of the tests, but I experienced a few more minor episodes that were similar to what I experienced at the DEMA show. During a long and thorough follow-up call a few weeks later, I told Dr. Chimiak that the sensations I experienced at DEMA reminded me of how I felt when I had a very serious bout of ciguatera. I had the foodborne illness almost 20 years earlier after I ate some grouper or snapper in the Bahamas. The symptoms also were reminiscent of how I felt after experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning during a dive four years earlier.
>While Dr. Chimiak found this information interesting, he couldn't say there was a direct link, but he told me that a statistical correlation exists between people who have had ciguatera and/or carbon monoxide poisoning and those people experiencing severe optical migraines later in life. These migraines can manifest in some very strange ways.
>The DAN team referred me to the dive medicine clinic at the University of California, San Diego, for a follow-up exam. This clinic is staffed by doctors who are board certified in undersea and hyperbaric medicine. At the clinic I had a comprehensive interview that covered my medical and diving history, and during this four-hour evaluation I shared my experiences with ciguatera and carbon monoxide poisoning.
>The doctors I saw previously were on the verge of telling me I should end my diving career. But the DAN team listened to me, considered unusual possibilities, discovered the root of my problem and referred me to a physician trained in dive medicine, who evaluated me and cleared me to dive.
>In yet another follow-up call, Dr. Chimiak suggested that I wear sunglasses in places with unusual or unpleasant lighting, which can trigger the type of migraines I experienced. On several occasions I have felt a migraine event coming on, and in every instance so far my symptoms have subsided within minutes after I put on my sunglasses — and I look cool.
>I am truly grateful that DAN was there for me.
>Note from Snyderman: "These photos were taken after I was cleared to return to diving. I would not have enjoyed any of these encounters or captured these images without DAN's help."
>Has DAN been there for you? Tell us about it at ThereForMe@dan.org.
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>© Alert Diver — Q2 Spring 2016