No Substitute for Practice

Three years ago, while diving in Lake Rawlings quarry in Southern Virginia, my dive buddy and I encountered a frantic and exhausted diver at the surface.  Between thrashes we got the idea that his buddy was missing somewhere in the area.  Looking down, I could barely see twenty feet.  I hoped he was somewhere close.  My buddy stayed with the guy on the surface, inflating his BC and rolling him onto his back to rest.  As I descended, the guy started freaking out again - we had our hands full!

At 40 ffw I reached the bottom.  The midsummer sun had warmed the quarry considerably and algae was in full bloom.  The viz was 10 feet at best.  I began a grid search, arbitrarily picking my right side to work first.  10 kicks, turn, 10 kicks, turn ...  On the third pass, I spotted the victim motionless and face down among the algae.  Bass and bluegills clustered around him in the murk, scattering as I approached.

He was a big guy, maybe 6'6", fit looking.  Turning him over, his eyes stared unblinkingly into mine.  I hauled him to a vertical position and began our ascent.  Arriving at the surface, I spotted my buddy churning away toward the dock with the now pacified surface swimmer in tow.  I inflated both of our BCs and pulled the reg for my victim's mouth.  At least there was a chance he hadn't drowned.   Kicking with both legs, I rose out slightly and began rescue breaths.  After several breaths and no response, I began kicking toward others who were heading out to meet me.  In a macabre parody of my earlier search, we fell into a rhythm.  10 kicks, breath, 10 kicks, breath.  For a quarter of a mile!

After what seemed like an endless swim, he suddenly coughed into my face and came to, thrashing his way back to life.  I positioned myself behind his tank, knees on either side and held him steady until he calmed down.  By that time the other divers had arrived and, together, we towed him to shore.  As we entered the shallows, he broke character and slapped me on the back.  "Well done! Really good job!"

Polar Bear Plunge 2007: Rescue divers getting inImage by Earl - What I Saw 2.0 via FlickrThe 'rescue' was the finale of our rescue diver courser led by Zane Frye of Richmond Dive & Travel.  A former military man, Zane had put us through an exhausting two days of drills, skills and thrills.  Along with several nights of classroom work we had learned what to do and had developed many of the skills to do it.  It was one of the best times I have ever had diving.

Though I had several rescues under my belt, these had been ad hoc efforts.  Through the course I had the opportunity to learn and fail without someone's life being at risk.  A year later, I used many of these skills in rescuing a diver out of gas at 100'. A year after that, I used the skills to plan my own rescue as I fought a medical problem on a dive.

Rescue courses are offered by PADI, NAUI and most of the major certification providers worldwide.  
Here's a partial list:

PADI - Rescue Diver Primary & Secondary Care Course

TDI/SDI Rescue Diver

NAUI Rescue Diver

If you have a weekend free, I highly recommend taking one, perhaps with your regular buddy if you have one.  You will have a ball, you'll be a better diver and it may well save your life.

Dive safely.
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