OK, here’s the real story:
The weekend of October 8th, 2011, we took a road trip to Branson to Table Rock Lake for our Open Water Check-out dives for our SCUBA Certification. I have to say the weekend (for me) did not go as planned. Jon is now an open water certified diver and we have his paperwork ready to send in for his ID card. Me, not so much. We will be making the drive once again next weekend, this time to Beaver Lake to, get this…do ONE lousy, 20 min leisure dive & demonstrate ONE skill. Here’s a (not-so) quick synopsis:
I picked up a cold about 2 weeks prior to our trip to Branson. After about a week, it seemed to have cleared up for the most part other than a little sinus drainage that was no trouble at all. I took that Thursday off work just to chill out, push fluids and vitamin C and rest (I felt just OK, but it was a good excuse to take an extra day off). Anyway, we got to our room at the hotel Friday evening, had a nice dinner, soaked in the Jacuzzi/hot tub for about 30 min. and went back to our room. While soaking in the Jacuzzi, I noticed I was coughing more than usual but didn’t think much of it. I figured the heat from the hot tub was just loosening stuff up. Our weather could not have been better…upper 80′s Friday through Sunday. We could actually sit on the bank of the lake (Saturday was at Spider Beach, Sunday at Dewey Short) and not be either hot or cold! There was shade in the afternoon when it did warm up but the sun was nice in the morning. Water temperature was about 68 degrees & our 7 ml wetsuits did a perfect job of keeping us warm.
Saturday, Dive 1: Our first dive went great…got most of the “hard” stuff out of the way right off the bat which I was thankful for. I had trouble in class in the pool with mask removal since (according to Alex, our divemaster) I’m a natural nose breather so even with practice, and mastering it in the pool, I was still terrified to do it in deeper, murky water…why? I have no idea. I was having some trouble breathing normally but I attributed my trouble breathing to just being over excited, semi-fearful, 3′ visibility (even though they said it was 5′, there was no way.) I found it strange that I was having a bit of a problem catching my breath once we were on top of the water…even just floating…rapid breathing as if I had been power walking or taken an easy jog. I also commented to Jon about the really bad headache I had when we were all underwater.
Dive 2: Easier skills, not as frightening & I tried really hard to calm myself and consciously take things slower and not feel pressure to hurry through the skills. After the second dive though, I was having more trouble catching my breath at the surface and starting to cough, a lot. I knew something was up and it wasn’t a good sign. I wondered what I could possibly be doing wrong or psyching myself out about and my wheels were turning a mile a minute trying to figure it all out. I’m not one to walk away from a challenge like this and I knew I only had one more dive to do that day.
Between dive 2 & 3 we were to go to the State Park Marina and get our tanks filled with more air. The shore where we dove from was down a steep hill, fresh gravel and some sand…hiking up that hill with our tanks just about did me in…I had to stop several times to rest, cough, try to catch my breath. Jon ended up carrying my tank the rest of the way. Just climbing the hill was hard enough, adding the weight of the tank was just too much.
Dive 3: Suiting back up to dive was another breathing challenge and I knew I should probably not go back in the water…but I wanted to just get through this last one for the day and I knew I’d be able to chill out the rest of the night. I knew I could do this. We had 3 skills to do. I got through the first two somehow but I was really feeling like I needed to call it quits and suck it up. The last skill was CESA (a Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent). This skill simulates a situation where you realize your tank is out of air & you’re in less than 30 feet of water. You need to surface but can’t use air from your tank. Holding your breath is not an option using SCUBA so the entire way to the surface, you’re to hum softly, slowly releasing the air in your lungs. Since you have no air in your tank, you have no way to mechanically inflate your Buoyancy Control vest so there’s a way to manually do this using your own breath. By the time I hit the surface of the water, I had NO air left in my lungs (in fact, I cheated and took a breath from my regulator) but I knew I was done for the day. I had NO lung capacity left. There was NO way, I was going to be able to inflate my vest & the more I tried, the worse I felt. I was about 5′ from the flag where I needed to be and didn’t have the sense to fill my BC with air from my tank, so I tried to tread water, got a mouth full of water and a cramp in my left calf simultaneously. At this point it dawned on me that I needed to use my tank air to float…did that…worked out the cramp while practically hyperventilating my way to the flag where our instructor was patiently waiting for me. I admitted defeat. He went back down to where Jon and our Divemaster were waiting to let them know to go ahead with the 20 min. leisure tour of the area. While he was below water, and I was floating on top I quickly felt extremely nauseated and well, puked up my breakfast. I was almost finished puking when he got back to the surface and after a minute or so, he and I went back to shore. I was what they call…feeding the fish.
Jon finished the dive with the Divemaster and he hauled all of our gear and loaded it in the car and I hiked the hill at a snail’s pace & peeled out of my wetsuit (which is a feat in itself for a healthy person to do). We got into dry clothes and went back to the hotel.
(Warning: Pretty graphic…) That night, I took the longest, hottest shower I could stand and inhaled the steam as deeply as I could, coughing with every inhalation. After about 15 minutes of this, stuff loosened up and I started coughing up stuff. Everyone knows when a cough becomes productive, you want to get that stuff out of your lungs…so, I did. Icky colored stuff at first, then it turned a pink color…then bright red. After about 30 minutes of coughing up bloody mucus, I decided I needed to sit out dive 4 tomorrow, let Jon get through it and get myself to the doctor as soon as we got home.
Sunday, Dive 4: We arrived at the dive site & talked to our Divemaster and Instructor about my decision to quit for the weekend. Hearing about my “productive” evening, they adamantly agreed that it would be best if I stay out of the water & get home ASAP. (We found out that they were doing one last check-out dive this season and it would be in two weeks, this time at Beaver Lake in Arkansas. They said I could come back and just do CESA & my last leisure dive and be finished.) As luck would have it, Jon and another couple were ready to hit the water before any of the rest of the group. They were able to get in and get his final dive finished & once all the paperwork formalities were done and goodbyes said, we promptly headed back to Kansas City.
By the time we got home, unpacked the car and went back out again, the Urgent Care center had closed literally as we pulled in. You’ve seen the scene before…you pull up…the girl is turning the key in the lock…waving at you from the other side of the glass door… “sorry, we’re closed.” We got back in the car, looked at the clock and it was 3 minutes before the posted closing time. SLACKERS! Anyway, I didn’t want to go to the ER so I saw my doctor the first thing the next day (Monday). “Asthmatic Bronchitis” he called it. A ten-day round of Levaquin (antibiotic) & Prednisone and he thought I should be feeling much better by Thursday, if not, let him know.
Thursday came and went…I was still coughing stuff up and wasn’t getting much sleep at all but for whatever reason, I was putting off going back to the doctor. We can all be pretty darned hard-headed sometimes. The following Monday I went back to the doctor. He did a chest X-ray and sure enough, the bronchitis had turned to a bit of pneumonia. He said it wasn’t all that bad & with a new antibiotic (Biaxin) I should be feeling better by the weekend. We can only hope.
To Be Continued…