>As an emergency medical technician (EMT) in Southern California, I am constantly faced with rapidly changing situations that are a part of caring for the sick and injured. Before becoming an EMT, I was a DAN® Instructor, and it was my DAN training that sunny day that propelled me into my career in emergency medical services.
>My assistant and I had just finished getting our eight students geared up and ready to dive. As we approached the entry point, we joked about how our drysuits were becoming wetsuits thanks to our profuse sweating under the hot California sun. The staircase leading into the water was completely packed as we took our place in the queue; there must have been close to 100 divers on the scene, and it wasn't even 9 a.m. yet.
>Suddenly a frantic voice yelled out, "Call 911! Call 911!" My initial thought was that it was a routine rescue-class scenario, and a student had gotten a little carried away. The same piercing voice continued, "Call 911!" I began to get the feeling something wasn't right. No one on the staircase moved; everyone just stared down toward the water. I walked over to the exit side of the stairs to see what was going on, and time stopped. A man standing at the base of the stairs was calling for help while trying to support a completely unconscious diver in the shallow water. The seriousness of the situation hit me immediately, and my DAN training kicked into high gear.
>I put down my gear and noticed the medics were loading the diver into the ambulance, so I walked over and asked for a status update. I was told he had regained a pulse and was breathing. At that moment I started to relive the entire event, from start to finish, in hyper speed. Every detail, every chest compression and the man's lifeless expression all raced through my head. For some unknown reason, tears began to stream down my face. Perhaps it was a release of energy or a combination of adrenaline with the knowledge that he now had a chance of survival.
>I didn't see the diver again, but the following day a sheriff's deputy told me, "The man left here talking and laughing." This was great news, of course, and something I now recognize as rare. It is my belief this man survived because of the quick thinking of well-trained bystanders who put their training into action, the excellent skills of the Los Angeles County Fire Department and, of course, the man's will to live.
>Since my very first DAN training course, I have felt confidence in the skills I acquired. As I have continued to add certifications to my repertoire, the more empowered and prepared I have felt for events such as this one. As a DAN Instructor, I enjoy educating others and passing on the life-saving skills I've learned. I often find myself using this incident to illustrate the importance of good basic-life-support and first-aid training to students as well as friends and family members. It happened on the water that day at Catalina, but it could very well happen in aisle five at the grocery store tomorrow.
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>© Alert Diver — Fall 2012