Connect with us

Thai Life

Phuket Diving: A communal recovery from the myths of DCS

Legacy Phuket Gazette



PHUKET: Recovered from her diving accident, Nicole still combs through the details of the day, searching for the tiny factors that might have contributed to the serious case of neurological decompression sickness (DCS Type II) she faced a year and half ago after a 22-meter dive in the Similan National Park.

Unless it’s a ruthless horror story about DCS, where a diver clearly did something wrong, many of us squirm when talking about getting “bent”. Though few will admit it, judgment is passed on those who have suffered from DCS. There is a fundamental assumption that a diver “must have done something wrong to get bent” – but most haven’t.

The rules we follow – not working out after diving, getting a full night’s sleep and following conservative dive profiles – are all designed to minimize the risk of DCS so that we can
enjoy the beautiful wonders below the water’s surface. Nonetheless these risks can never be entirely eliminated.

Nicole, an experienced diver with over 200 logged dives since 1994, did not surpass her decompression limits, she did not ascend too quickly or skip her safety-stop – she made her third dive of the day on Barracuda Point well within the limits of what is reasonable.

“We went down to 22 meters and came slowly up to 10 meters, stayed between eight meters and 10 meters for a while, and then did the safety stop at five meters and came up to the surface. Our total dive time was 47 minutes,” Nicole recalls.

Looking back at the day, Nicole remembers the heat and a mild headache before splashing in, perhaps signs that she should have sat the dive out… but almost every diver is regularly willing to jump without feeling “100 per cent”. A little hot from a wetsuit, a little nauseous from seasickness, the symptoms and justifications go on.

“I just had a mild headache, but it was a very hot day. So we stayed in the shade and drank a lot of water,” Nicole explained.

“Some inexperienced divers told me that they were diving and had no problems, so I must have done something wrong. Experienced divers don’t think that it was my fault – they know that sometimes ‘it just happens’ and that it can happen to anyone,” Nicole said.

Groups have systematically ostracized those things and situations they don’t understand, often fearfully casting them into the realm of myth – divers are no exception. However, as we continue to explore our world above and below the surface, our understanding of it grows and we are able to shed the baggage of myth and see the world for what it is. As happened to Nicole and countless others (there is no single organization that provides DCS statistics or data), DCS can take hold of a diver without a clear single factor to isolate and avoid.

Despite years of research, our understanding of the tiny microscopic bubbles that cause DCS still lives in the world of theory.

“The current thinking is that bubbles exist to some degree in the body after all dives. If the bubbles are few and small, they have no effect, but if they are plentiful, their volume can be large enough to cause decompression sickness,” explains the PADI Encyclopedia of Recreational Diving.

Most scientists, though not all, are fairly sure that these tiny microscopic bubbles are created within our supersaturated tissues after a dive, through a process known as nucleation. What they are less confident about is what factors will increase the rate at which these bubbles are produced and what combination of factors will take an individual diver beyond the limit of safe diving.

Seven months later, after hours of being treated in a hyperbaric chamber in Phuket, Nicole stood on the dive platform of a boat in Egypt – cleared to dive.

“Standing on the boat platform my heart was beating like it was going to explode. I was asking myself, ‘will something happen again when I go underwater?'” Nicole said.”I wanted to dive, it was just three seconds away.”

Nicole, after suffering from a severe case of neurological DCS, took the plunge, and again joined the ranks of recreational divers and explorers around the world.

— Isaac Stone Simonelli


Get more from The Thaiger

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS
👋 Have your say on our Thailand forums
🔔 Subscribe to our daily email newsletter
📺 Subscribe / Join YouTube for daily shows
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🐦 FOLLOW us on Twitter
📷 FOLLOW us on Instagram


Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Insurgency6 hours ago

Suspected insurgent wanted for murder killed by forces in Pattani

Thailand9 hours ago

Phang Nga reopening and “Phuket Sandbox” island hop extensions postponed

Best of9 hours ago

Bangkok’s 5 best SHA Plus Certified hotels

Welcome back to Thailand!

Thaiger is getting behind local businesses for the restart of tourism in Thailand - up to 50% discounts across all advertising packages!

Best of10 hours ago

Top 5 steakhouses in Phuket

Thailand10 hours ago

Bangkok Train Market official says they will reopen

Thailand10 hours ago

August vaccination plan: 80% of Bangkok residents; open to general public, expats

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Thailand10 hours ago

300 beds added to Phuket’s second field hospital

Thailand10 hours ago

The Thaiger launches the ‘I Am Strong’ campaign

Indonesia11 hours ago

Earthquake hits Papua, Indonesia

Thailand11 hours ago

Thailand News Today | More Dark red zones, ‘coup rumour’ quashed | August 2

Thailand11 hours ago

Man arrested for allegedly robbing 7-Eleven stores in Bangkok to pay off gambling debt

Thailand12 hours ago

Protestors fill Bangkok streets to protest Prayut, many protest leaders present

Crime12 hours ago

Teenagers arrested for allegedly running underage prostitution racket

Thailand13 hours ago

PM’s daughters get letter asking them to tell their father to resign

Coronavirus (Covid-19)13 hours ago

Monday Covid Update: 17,970 new cases, provincial totals

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism5 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism5 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism5 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8