>Doug weighed 240 pounds, so as a new diver with a wetsuit he used more than 20 pounds of weight. I still struggle with my own buoyancy issues and uneasiness about currents, and it was overwhelming at times to be looking out for my buddy, too. We had a successful week of diving until the last day, when Doug had difficulty descending. Later I found out he had removed some weight without communicating the change to me.
>A moment later I felt a touch on my head and turned to see a thumbs up signal. I blindly followed Doug as he ascended — I didn't know what was going on. I could see he was watching his gauges. I never saw his face until we were just about to surface. He was slightly above me, so I had been looking at his stomach the whole time. I don't know why, but I never thought about what might be happening.
>At the surface he turned toward me and started to mouth words. A pink frothy foam filled his mask and came out of his mouth. I guess my training or experience kicked in as I screamed at him to inflate his BCD. He rotated away from me, and I grabbed for his inflator button. I inflated his BCD until air flowed out of the dump valves.
>I waved my arms at the boat and screamed, "Medical emergency!" — I didn't want the crew to think we just didn't feel like diving. From there the events became a blur punctuated by clear snippets of reality. Doug was still facing away from me. His head bobbed with the swell. Maybe he was just resting. I will never know why I didn't turn him toward me, why I didn't look at him. Maybe if I didn't look then this would not be real. I handed off Doug to the crew. They pulled and pulled, but he wasn't moving. I stared at the ladder.
>Finally the crew began to make progress hauling up Doug, who was still wearing all of his gear. When I saw the integrated weights of his BCD, I remembered, "drop the weights." He was moving so slowly I had plenty of time to remove each weight and place it on the deck. I removed his fins and then my weight belt and fins. I was so proud of myself. I placed all the gear on the deck out of everyone's way and didn't lose any of the rental gear. Then I looked up and saw the ugly truth. Doug was unconscious and a ghastly gray color, with his head hanging to the side. This was real; this was happening to us.
>I saw a crew member getting the oxygen, and I instinctively started pushing on Doug's chest. I saw and heard the oxygen tank. "Wait, my mom uses oxygen," I thought. "There shouldn't be a whishing sound." I continued pushing on Doug's chest. Each compression produced more pink foam from his mouth. I wanted him to be neat and clean, so I kept lovingly wiping the foam away.
>I tried to fit my mouth over his nose and mouth. "Damn, why does he have such a big nose?" I thought. "Oh yeah, nose and mouth is child rescue breathing — mouth-only for adults." I performed the rescue breaths. I didn't feel much or see his chest rise. I provided more chest compressions, and more foam came forth. I performed another rescue breath. "How long should I do this? What if he survives with brain damage?"
>During the third cycle I felt something different; it must have been a breath finally going in. "Had I been doing it wrong?" I thought. Then a gasping breath came from Doug's mouth — then another breath. He was breathing. It was gasping, labored breathing. "Should I have done the CPR? Was it too long?" Later I learned drowning victims can have reflex laryngeal spasms, which can block rescue breaths.
>The crew didn't know what to do; they had set up the oxygen cylinder incorrectly, and all the oxygen leaked out. No one else took charge, so I did, albeit badly. Somehow I rolled Doug onto his side, and after what seemed like an eternity I looked up and saw we were at a dock. The boat had pulled up at the closest dock to the dive site, a small hotel/condo complex in south Cozumel. "Why wasn't any one helping us?" I thought. I jumped up and screamed to the building for help.
>Doug was breathing but still unconscious. He remembers regaining consciousness as he was placed into the ambulance (which had arrived a few minutes after our boat docked). The saga continued with an eventful ride to the hospital that included the ambulance getting a flat tire, us flagging down a passing SUV, stuffing all 6 feet 2 inches of Doug into the back of it and then discovering the road we needed was closed for construction. I couldn't believe I saved his life on the boat and he was going to die on the side of the road.
>Fortunately, we made it to the hospital, where Doug was diagnosed with pulmonary edema. After two days in the hospital, lots of diuretics and repeated lung X-rays, he was released.
>We learned a lot from the experience: Complete a refresher course, always stay close to your buddy, know how to administer oxygen, stay current with CPR training, and purchase the best DAN dive accident insurance.
>Doug is fine today, and we have completed several dive trips since the incident. We have taken CPR classes, and I am now certified as a rescue diver. We are grateful every day for a second chance.
>© Alert Diver — Q4 Fall 2016