Veteran diver bouncing back

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Posted by on August 05, 2005 at 11:37:49:

John Vigars found floating unconscious in water

Mary Anne Vigars is certain -- this is a story that will have a happy ending.
One week after her husband, John, was victim of a diving accident last Wednesday in the Bahamas, she is getting ready to welcome him home as he travels his road to recovery.
Already, she says, the well-known St. Thomas man, a semi-retired financial advisor, has surprised his doctors in Miami with the speed of his comeback.
Found by fellow divers floating unconscious in the water, Vigars was a victim of decompression sickness -- the bends.
And while doctors initially warned Mary Anne Vigars that consequences of his accident could be as dire as paralysis or death, she said Wednesday at the couple's St. Thomas home, "I don't want this to be dramatic.
"Things are looking good."
But she also acknowledges it may take time. And, a devout Roman Catholic, she is praying.
It's not clear what happened one week ago, 250 miles off the Florida coast, Mary Anne Vigars says.
Vigars is an experienced diver with more than 5,000 dives to his credit, and a certified instructor who has taught more than 3,000 divers.
He was leading an annual expedition to the Caribbean -- his 29th, in fact -- when the accident occurred during a 30-metre dive.
Doctors say Vigars simply may have fallen victim to a combination of subtle factors which prevented his body from reabsorbing the nitrogen gas that is released when a diver surfaces from the depths.
With the sun beating down both in Ontario and in the Caribbean, Vigars may not have been sufficiently hydrated, Mary Anne Vigars says.
And although he is a life-long athlete, his age -- he is 64 -- also may have played a part. He is what is called, perhaps unforgivingly, "an old diver."
And he simply may have been tired from organizing the trip, which included several other St. Thomas divers.
"The last thing he remembers is seeing his yellow dive glove floating in the water in front of him ... and thinking, 'Why can't I control my hand?' "
But now undergoing hyperbaric treatment at Mercy Hospital, and receiving physical and occupational therapy, Vigars is out of bed and walking, albeit with assistance -- though he also tried a little jig for his wife of almost 45 years after she flew down on the weekend with family friend Bob Davidson.
Vigars was evacuated by U.S. Coast Guard helicopter to Miami hospital where his care, Mary Anne Vigars believes, is excellent under hyperbaric specialist Dr. Ivan Montoya.
She also credits her husband's natural optimism.
Vigars, she says, doesn't see a half-empty glass. "It's always half-full."
Meanwhile, St. Thomas and their family at St. Anne's Parish have overwhelmed the couple with wishes for a speedy recovery. And they agreed to her interview to voice their thanks.
"The phone calls! It's good to be home -- and St. Thomas is home."
Vigars could be released as soon as next weekend, to return to St. Thomas by car with the couple's three sons -- John, Jim, a general practitioner in North Bay, and Bob.
Flying is out of the question, at least for the present -- indeed, Mary Anne Vigars says her husband's road home necessarily must be along the Mississippi Valley to avoid mountain elevations.
The accident means Vigars' diving career is over.
But Mary Anne Vigars says she still believes it is a safe sport.
"Diving is a safe sport. Any sport has its share of -- what's the word? Risks? Challenges? Whatever.
"Accidents can happen."

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