I am ready to pull back the covers of my bed and snuggle down between the sheets and fall into a long and peaceful rest which will last well into late morning tomorrow. I am physically exhausted.
Here’s a snapshot of my week
• Tuesday: ½ day First Aid Course, ½ day Rescue Diver Theory homework
• Wednesday: ½ day Rescue Diver Theory, ½ day Rescue Scenario Practice
• Thursday: Rescue Scenario Practice in pool
• Friday 3 hours Muay Thai Training
• Saturday Dive Boat completing open water rescue scenarios
The physical exhaustion is worth it as today I completed my Rescue Diver course!
Completing this course has been on my radar for a couple of years now. After completing my Advance Open Water course in 2004, I wanted to enjoy diving without any study or learning and practicing skills. I just wanted to be in the water and absorb the magic of the underwater world without distraction. However, after a couple of difficult dives in the Similan Islands last year, I knew it was time to complete the Rescue Diver Course. I’d been told by many divers that this course was “so much fun” but I think they forgot to include the word “challenging” in their enthusiastic description. For as fun as it was, it was as equally challenging.
All Rescue Divers have to have a current first aid qualification, so I started the course by completing PADI’s qualification, the Emergency First Responder. If anyone needs any first aid assistance in future, just to ensure that you don’t sue me, I shall be seeking your agreement by rattling off , “My name is Kym. I’m an Emergency Responder. Can I help you?” quite possibly in a bad American accent as I was taught. I say bad, because I don’t do a very good American accent at all. Quite simply, this course involved practicing mouth to mouth resuscitation, CPR and bandaging wounds.
I spent the rest of Tuesday attempting to complete my Rescue Diver theory review questions and this is when my resistance first surfaced. It should have taken me around 3 to 4 hours to complete the work, but not me. I managed to stretch the task out so I spent 10 hours doing it. In that time, my resistance surfaced in the form of doing anything but the task at hand. I emailed, Facebooked, had coffee, used the internet, went for a swim, used the internet, had a shower, used the internet, had dinner, used the internet. Ordinarily, all of these things might be nice to do during the day but I was using them as a procrastination tool not because I was enjoying doing them. In effect, I wasted 7 hours of my day in unfocused, unenjoyable doing.
By the time I completed the final chapter of theory, I felt completely despondent about diving and my diving course. I wasn’t enjoying the theory at all. It felt monotonous, boring and like a chore. I felt awful. I’d dreamed about diving and coming back to Thailand to dive and complete further courses for over 12 months and now that I’m here, how could it be that I didn’t want to do it? Had I lost my passion for diving?
As I fell asleep that night, I had decided I wasn’t doing any more dive courses. Maybe I’d just spend my time here in Thailand doing some Muay Thai, some fun dives and lazing on the beach reading. I was very willing to accept that I had simply changed my mind as I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. However, that was short lived.
With anything challenging, it’s interesting to observe your internal reaction – do you embrace it or do you resist it? Or do you resist it just before you embrace it? I am a perfectionist and my own worst critic. I like to be good at everything I do, and if I’m not my inner critic kicks in. I can and will give myself a harder time than any teacher, manager or anyone else ever could. In this instance, I was resisting the challenge. My inner critic was encouraging me to quit before I started just in case I failed proving that I’m not good enough. Funny how the ego works. Needless to say, as with all things, this was just temporary, just resistance surfacing before the embracing.
The next day, I spent all afternoon in the pool practicing rescue scenarios…different ways of towing divers, how to approach and assist panicked divers on the surface and underwater, buddy breathing, simulating out of oxygen scenarios for myself and buddy, simulating vertigo underwater and ascending to surface, rescuing a tired diver and panicked diver simultaneously, carrying and lifting divers out of the water. It was so much fun and I could have stayed doing it for longer except my hands were so pruned the skin was starting to peel off and I had lost massive chunks of skin off my heels from burst blisters caused by my fins rubbing against the skin, incredibly painful.
Today was the last day of my course and it was to be spent out on the boat where I would put everything I had learnt in the preceding days to the test in open water. The mini-bus picked me up at 8am to take me to Chalong pier to board the dive boat. Off we headed to Racha Yai island, a mere 24 kilometres from Chalong Pier but about 90 minutes on the boat. There was quite a bit of swell today so it was a mini roller coaster ride. I was feeling anxious, trying to recall what I had learnt, ready to put it into action. There were protocols to remember and follow depending on the situation at hand. Being in or underwater changes everything when it comes to saving someone’s life. If you’re under water, you don’t have the luxury of verbal communication to calm someone who is panicking and your own life can be at risk trying to rescue another.
This was to be a day of testing, where I would be surprised by simulated diver emergencies and incidents that I would be responsible for resolving. Without boring you with the details, I had to do the following tasks; correctly safety check my dive buddy, disentangle a panicked diver from a line, calm a panicked diver, check an unresponsive diver, calm a panicked diver with a flooded mask, buddy breathe with an out of air diver, surface a diver with a sea urchin cut (complete with fake blood) and perform first aid. And this was just before lunch. Straight after lunch I had to swim to and assist a tired diver at the surface and tow them back to the boat and then immediately back in the water to assist a panicked diver on the surface who thought she saw a shark. Then it was onto the second dive where I had to search for a missing diver underwater and then bring the unconscious diver to the surface, perform rescue breathing on them whilst towing them to the boat and removing both their and my equipment in quite a strong current before getting them out of the water and performing CPR.
I completed all the tasks and scenarios, although not perfectly. My inner critic kicked in and I internally berated myself for being less than perfect. I even considered not completing my Divemaster Training because I didn’t complete this course perfectly. Sounds crazy I know, but that’s how my inner critic works. It’s only now as I write this that I can change my focus from what I did wrong, to what I did right and be proud of the hard work I’ve put in this week and of how I responded in new situations and under stress. I am still only learning after all and it is practice that makes perfect. Although to be honest, I hope I never have to put the skills I learned this week into practice in real life.
I’d like to give a big shout out to my instructor, Emma, who is fabulous. Her passion for diving and teaching, both the theory and the practical work, and her encouragement made the course a lot of fun in a serious way. A big thank you to Leah, Saskia and Luke, the Dive Master Trainees who acted as my victims to rescue with humour. I’m looking forward to being a victim and hopefully rescued when I complete my Dive Master Training.