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May 2015    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 30, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Heart Health in Older Divers

are stress tests and defibrillators really that helpful?

from the May, 2015 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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When subscriber Ted Doering (Jupiter, FL) spotted one of his fellow divers -- a chubby 65-year-old who said he had 400 dives under his belt but looked like he rarely exercised -- he sensed trouble. Doering, a pediatric oncologist, and his wife were on a May cruise that had stopped in the Galapagos, and had booked a two-tank dive. They got in a dive boat with the chubby diver, and the captain, who didn't speak English, took them offshore for the first dive. The divemaster had only two weeks' experience in the Galapagos and had no medical background. To make sure they had the right gear and had buoyancy, she wanted her divers to test their gear on the surface before descending. The chubby diver immediately jumped in, but shocked by the cold water, he tried to climb up the ladder. He couldn't do it unaided, and after a struggle, he fell back into the water, unconscious.

"The divemaster said, 'Oh my God, he's not breathing,' and the boat captain was also useless," Doering says. Doering got the diver on the boat and started pulmonary respiration but couldn't get a pulse. Within 10 minutes, the diver's pupils were dilated. The boat had oxygen but no automated external defibrillator (AED), an electronic device used to treat a person in cardiac arrest. The diver died due to a blocked blood flow in a coronary artery. "The man had no idea that he had heart disease," Doering says. "I asked his wife about his heart condition and she said, 'He never went to the doctor. He hadn't seen one in 20 years.'"...


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