On November 24, 2023, a group of divers led by Ocean Geographic boarded the Solmar V in Cabo San Lucas for a nine-day dive expedition to Mexico's Revillagigedo Islands, nearly a 300-mile voyage.
We received a thorough boat and safety briefing and conducted emergency evacuation drills. The crew paid attention to every detail and even conducted a fire drill in fire suits with masks, hoses, and fire extinguishers on their backs, which I had never witnessed on the many previous liveaboards I have been on before. We then enjoyed the view from the top deck while sipping our margaritas and sharing stories of our previous trips to these remote islands.
We had smooth sailing and arrived at the Revillagigedo Islands at nightfall on the 25th. Next morning, we prepared for a dive at San Benedicto Island. Divemaster Danny Zapata drew a meticulous site map filled with sharks, mantas, and dolphins, promising that we would see many, if not all, of these animals. Our teams descended at El Canon and were immediately greeted by silky, Galapagos, and hammerhead sharks in the distance, several graceful giant manta rays and four dolphins. I surfaced with a big smile.
After passing up his weight belt, he struggled to get out of his BCD, and then his left side stiffened, and he went limp.
But, at another Zodiac, a diver had an issue. He surfaced, and at first, excitedly communicated with the divers on board, but after passing up his weight belt, he struggled to get out of his BCD, and then his left side stiffened, and he went limp. Divemaster Diego Reynoso and a guest pulled him into the Zodiac, which quickly returned to the Solmar V. The crew assisted him on board, administered oxygen, and contacted DAN. He had had a stroke.
Per DAN's recommendation, Captain Armando Baro alerted the Mexican naval base on Socorro Island, three hours away, which would send a medical team. Diego and Natalia Caravayo, a cabin stewardess (a qualified veterinarian, she was the most senior medical person on board), provided first aid care. They stayed with the patient until the Navy boat met them with a physician and medical staff. The diver appeared to have recovered, walking and talking almost normally. After examining him, the doctor did not believe he needed to be evacuated, but later in the day, the diver abruptly went into an uncontrollable seizure. An emergency evacuation was vital, but because it was nightfall, it would have to wait until morning. After he was stabilized, the Solmar V dive crew shift-watched over him. The air evacuation was organized and coordinated seamlessly by the Solmar V shore office with the assistance of the Mexican military base on Socorro Island.
From the onset, the swift action and assistance from the crew and Captain of the Solmar V was exemplary, expertly arresting a life-threatening situation. DAN even contacted the diver's wife, who flew to Cabo; DAN arranged an airport transfer for her to the hospital.
After three days of scans, seizure, and chamber treatment, the diver was discharged from the BlueNetHospitals and came to the boat with his wife to thank the crew and guests for their help. He was ambulatory, speaking, and said that he would not be diving again. He had some post-stroke symptoms and would need medical care once he arrived home.
While we continued diving after his evacuation and had an otherwise wonderful trip, I will never forget the service and sincere concern from the Solmar V crew, DAN, the Mexican Navy, and everyone involved. A successful evacuation from the waters of the Revillagigedo Islands to Cabo San Lucas and a diver able to return home were remarkable, life-affirming achievements.
-Virginia Bria (Fairfax, CA)