Our trip to Costa Rica this past April to certify our children for scuba diving turned out to be the vacation from hell. While on our second dive, off the Catalina islands, a strong current separated my husband and me, from each other. Our children were in a separate group.
My husband, a physician and experienced diver, immediately notified the dive master that I was missing, and the dive master went back to look for me. He returned several minutes later, unsuccessful. He moved the group forward, and then my husband spotted me sitting near a coral reef on the bottom at 33 feet below without my regulator, which is the mouthpiece for air. Essentially I had drowned.
After my husband found me, he took me to the surface, and while still in the water, started CPR. The dive master signaled for the boat to come, and and once on board, I was still without a pulse nor breathing. He continued CPR along with help from others for 30 minutes, until an EMT boat arrived that had oxygen. My husband noticed the mask they tried to use did not work, and he continued mouth breathing. I arrived on shore still not breathing and was met by an emergency doctor who arrived on the beach with a defibrillator where a pulse was detected, he also was able to intubate me, and then transported me to a local hospital ER 45 minutes away. I remained there on a ventilator for about 8 hours until Divers Alert Network (DAN) arranged emergency air transport to Del Ray hospital in Florida, where I remained in a coma for 10 days, then was extubated, and transported to Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in New York for 3 days, and then into Burke Rehabilitation center in White Plains, NY until May 25.
My brain had sustained an injury which took weeks to recover, initially complete memory loss, which miraculously has come back. Our local Edgemont community as well as family and friends reached out to help my family and myself while at Burke and after discharge. The main reason for my successful recovery was two-fold. One was that my husband refused to give up and continued the CPR for longer than most hospitals do, and secondly, the fact that we were in cold water. Both of these important factors were supported by recent articles in the NY Times and New England Journal of Medicine. But crucially, if he had not known how to perform CPR and do it correctly, I would not be here.
I have had our family certified at Greenville Fire department, which if you live in Edgemont, offers CPR and can be contacted at (914) 723-3430. They also offer courses in Scarsdale (914) 722-2288, Ardsley-Secor at (914) 693-3673, and the American Red Cross in White Plains (914) 946-6500.
For other communities check with your local fire departments. It only takes 3 hours to complete the course, and since one never knows when one will encounter a person in need, CPR is an important thing to know. I also strongly recommend that anyone reading this learn CPR and advise their friends to learn it too.