Do people really get narced at 60, 70 or 80 FSW ??

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Posted by Wayne on March 21, 2001 at 18:11:57:

In Reply to: Trimix at 60 FSW ?? posted by Kevin on March 21, 2001 at 12:01:20:

I have a friend who got into a bit of trouble while diving in Avalon. He was buddied up with a fellow he barely knew and had never dove with before. He is a diver who dives several times each year in So Cal plus a resort diver in the tropics one or two times per year. He needed a buddy or he would not dive (both lack of confidence and a rarely diving wife who would forbid it). He is in his early 40's in good health, fit, etc. He felt a bit funny, and took OTC cold stuff that morning, just in case.

OK, his buddy needed to rent his gear at the trailer. They both suited up and my friend entered the water (this is before the steps) and got knocked around a bit. The other guy had immediate gear problems. Mask strap, then a fin strap, then other stupid problems. My friend did not want to fight the rocks and it always seemed the other guy was within 2-3 min of getting ready to dive. My friend started to feel a bit sea sick, but not bad and he knew it would pass as soon as he descended.

Well, after 20 min, the other guy gets in the water and my COLD friend and he go down. At about 75 fsw, my friend started having trouble swimming and dealing with buoyancy. He thought he could not move his legs and he thought he could not put air in his BC (rigid, inflexible thinking). His legs started to be harder to move and he could not get his arms to allow the inflater to be activated. He stayed aware of the situation and wondered, in a detached way, why he was in this predicament. His buddy signaled that he wanted to go another direction and swam away -- not to be seen during the dive again. Meanwhile my friend is drifting down to about 90 fsw and cant kick. He can read the depth gauge and he thinks that if he does not get this under control he will die. He does not feel panicy, just thinking how strange it all is. Using all his efforts it takes him about 3 - 5 minutes to get his hand to the inflater and add air.

At 60 fsw, he suddenly realizes what is happening and trims out his buoyancy. He slowly ascends while swimming toward the exit point. He exits the water thinking he must have had some kind of seizure or something. He stops diving for many months.

Next time he dove it was in Cozumel. He joins a group and does a drift dive. At 75 fsw, he starts to feel the same symptoms and stops descending. He swims above the group and decided he should never dive again. He did not speak to anyone about this for 2 years, when he told me.

I have since taken him down and he seems OK. But he is relaxed and feels safe diving with me since he knows that I am watching him and can rescue him if anything goes wrong. If he is calm, he does not feel narced or have the odd belief that he cannot control himself. I think he will always choose buddies with care and he will avoid depth. I think I will get to do a Nitrox class in the near future.

So can one get incapacitated by narcosis in shallow dives? YES! It took stress, cold, medication, and bad luck. The next time he was mostly just fearful and overly sensitive. Before that he had done dives in the 100 fsw range with no problems. So the moral of the story dive carefully and never buddy up with a deserter. In this case he should have spent more time planning buddy procedures with the guy before ever entering the water. And if you do not feel up to a dive, GET OUT OF THE WATER!

Interesting story, eh? It sure opened my eyes and I gotta say I sure watch him carefully when we dive together!


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