It had been a great day at work. My two students (John and Barbara) and I had just finished the 2nd dive of our PADI National Geographic specialty, and as the conditions were ideal that day, both dives had been great. The three of us were slowly swimming back in and talking about what we’d seen. What we didn’t realize was that it was the PREVIOUS class I had taught them-Rescue Diver-that was about to become important.
“Hey! Hey! Can one of you guys help me?”
I looked quickly towards the direction of the shout to see an older man treading water (with difficulty) about 25 yards away. Once he saw he had our attention, he quickly shouted again.
“I’m tired and I…can you help me?”
Now I’ve taught quite a few Rescue Diver classes, but this was the first time that I had ever needed to use any of the skills involved, and certainly the first time that any of the Rescue Divers I’d taught had been present as well. To confuse things a bit, the gentleman in question somehow managed to sound EXACTLY like the diver in the PADI training film beginning the “Tired Diver At the Surface-assist from shore or boat” exercise…to the point where I later found out that John and Barbara weren’t sure if it was a test or not. As I turned to them both to tell them I was going to go help, Barbara showed that they’d both pass the test:
“Do you want us to go get him?”
Let me tell you, folks—that’s how you make your Instructor proud of you. Another thing we learn in Rescue training, though, is that the more experienced and trained person should do the rescuing. (I sometimes joke that Ulua beach is one of the safest places to swim that you’ll find, simply because of all of the Emergency First Response instructors that teach dive classes there every day.). So I sent John and Barbara on to shore, and swam on over to the now ever-so-slightly panicking swimmer. When I was within about 15 feet I found myself right back in the PADI training film…
“Just relax—I’m Jim, I’m trained in rescue, I can help! Be right there!”
I reached him JUST as he managed to gasp out “legs are cramping!”…and turned him on his back and pulled him up into an underarm tow, with both of us supported by my inflated BC. He was tired and hyperventilating a bit from exertion and panic.
“Just relax, no need to kick, I’ll tow us in…”
I spent some time being grateful I’d gotten to him before he’d managed to breathe any water.
“….almost there now…”
As he began to calm down, he told me he’d gone out to help his wife, who had tired herself out. He helped her in, and didn’t realize how tired he had gotten in the process…
(and there’s another lesson from Rescue Diver—don’t attempt to help in a situation where you will also need rescuing).
“Okay, we’re there! You can stand up!”
We both got to our feet, and I took off my fins and walked him ashore…to meet his grateful wife and collect a hug. I walked back over to John and Barbara (“Was that a test?”) and we all headed back up to rinse off. Just like the training video.
A great day at work.