A huge thanks to Kevin Milstein for writing this guest blog post.
Hopefully it will help you remember to check that your dive boat has pure oxygen on it before you dive.
In July 2010, after having spent 3 wonderful weeks at the World Cup in South Africa with my partner Debbie and my son Reagan, we stopped off in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia for a couple of days diving on the way back to our home in Australia.
On 1 July my son and I went out on our first day of diving. At the end of the second dive Reagan had an accident and despite weeks of intensive care following the accident he passed away on 22 July, he was 14 years old.
The two dives were nothing unusual, nothing strenuous or particularly hard. In fact I would describe them as very easy and very relaxing, probably the easiest dives that I had done in my 19 years of diving.
Nor was my son totally inexperienced. Reagan had done the junior PADI course 6 months earlier and had even had medical checkups in Australia and he had dived about 10 times prior to these dives as part of his course and at other times. Yes he was a bit all over the place, as all new divers are, but nothing unusual.
As we found out later what Reagan had suffered at the end of his second dive was a gas embolism to the brain or in simpler terms something similar to a stroke while he was completing his second dive.
The severity of the injury caught everyone by surprise even the medical staff in Malaysia, then Singapore and finally Australia, but what might have made the difference between his life and death was not present in those first few critical minutes after the injury. Namely, proper emergency oxygen supply on the dive boat.
I am not a doctor or any kind of medical expert but since Reagan’s passing I have been researching what could have been done to make a difference to my son.
I can’t say for sure that an emergency oxygen supply could have saved his life, but what I can say for certain is that lack of it certainly helped in his passing.
The importance of having an oxygen supply after any diving accident is vital. What Reagan needed more than anything when we got him back on the boat was 100% oxygen into his lungs. He did get oxygen about 20 minutes later but by then it was probably too late.
And when he did get the oxygen it was delivered with a normal mask, the kind you see with the holes on the side, so all he was getting at best was 40% oxygen. What he, and everybody else needs, is a full respirator mask with no holes on the side so that 100% oxygen is delivered to the system.
As was explained to me, if he had got 100% oxygen it is possible that the high oxygen level would have drawn the gas embolism down from his brain and given him a better chance at life.
Unfortunately it is all speculation now, nothing that I can do or anybody else can do, can bring him back now. However what I can do is keep telling divers: make sure that your dive boat has emergency oxygen supply on board with a full respirator mask before you go out diving.
Dive safely and dive often.