In May, James Brewster needed DSAA’s support when he suffered every diver’s worst nightmare – the bends...

I had been scuba diving out of Swanage, on a wreck 30m underwater. After a fantastic 66-minute dive, myself and my buddy surfaced and we got back on the boat, talking about how great the dive was and what we had seen.

About five minutes later, I started coughing, wheezing, feeling short of breath and was incredibly pale. I sat down and began to take my dry suit off as it would make it easier to breathe. After another five minutes I began retching and heaving, feeling like I needed to be sick. Shortly after this, my balance started to go.

The boat got back to Swanage Pier and I was helped off. The diving doctor was called and I was put on oxygen to try and aid my symptoms. I then began vomiting uncontrollably and felt like I had vertigo and the worst motion sickness I had ever experienced. I had my eyes shut and was laying down, yet nothing seemed to make it better, it was only getting worse… I was suffering ‘the bends’!

As my condition worsened, it became apparent that the previous plan of driving me to the recompression chamber was no longer viable. This was when the air ambulance was tasked to help. I remember hearing the helicopter in the background, but don’t remember much after that as I was going into shock and starting to become hypothermic. The team administered IV fluids to replace those that I had lost, as well as other medication to stop me being sick. I was then flown to the recompression chamber in Poole. During the flight, I remember opening my eyes and one of the crew members gave me a reassuring smile that it was going to be ok.

I was treated in the recompression chamber for five days. It then took a further ten days until I was back to normal. It is not an experience I want to go through again, but I can honestly say that it would have been a lot worse without the brilliant treatment from team. They did an amazing job – thank you!

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