My Cloud Sponge

It was a beautiful sunny day in February. I think of it as "that fateful Wednesday". I had been diving for two days prior. We had a bit of a late start. I thought I had missed the boat but when I got to the dock, it was waiting for stragglers. At the dive site I got my suit on quite quickly - felt great when I jumped in the water - swam around the back of the boat and up to the front of the descent line. I was looking forward to seeing my first cloud sponge. I didn't know this meant we were going to be doing a wall dive. I was the first down - got down to about 25 feet and had to re-ascend because of equalizing problems.

Anyways, got over that-then...

Managed to make it to 60 feet. But then I inadvertently kicked a cucumber (rats!). At this point I think I was in a kneeling position on a ledge - but I'm not sure. I gave the cucumber a long gaze, watching it as it floated in the water.

Had to descend another 30 feet before finding sponge. Finally, I saw my cloud sponge. Great! There was just one that I saw -it was on the right - I guess on a ledge. It seemed to be up a bit and sort of by itself. I had to look over my right shoulder to see it. There may have been more but I wasn't aware of them at the time. At this point I was having a definite leaking mask problem - pesky and wouldn't seal. The other divers didn't seem to be paying attention to me. Cleared my mask and kept descending, darker and somewhat murky.

My mask was leaking again. Arghhh....

At 105 feet one of my dive companions, Barbara, was pointing her flashlight at something that looked very interesting and colourful - sort of red - underneath a rocky outcrop. But Barbara kept shining her flashlight in my eyes (and to put it mildly, it was a rather large flashlight). I found it highly annoying that she was having such a good time. I was worried about my air consumption. I wanted to check my gauge. Whenever I check my gauge I feel reassured. I would have checked - but I couldn't find my gauge. It was hooked on my suit or something. And my mask was leaking. Arghhhh!!!

If I'm ticked and I manage to smile to myself, the feeling usually goes away. But it did not go away this time. I was very majorly ticked - I thought I was going to die. I wanted to come up from the bottom so badly. I put my hands up in a prayer motion and began to part water (a straight up version of the breaststroke). But it felt like the water I was trying to part was lead. I looked around for another diver - got one - Scott. (I didn't know who it was at the time). I grabbed his fins. He didn't know what in the devil was going wrong with me. I just kept pointing at my mask. He started to take me up. I was hyperventilating. I was swallowing seawater through my regulator. My mask flooded, filling halfway with water. The ascent was excruciatingly slow. I think I've blocked out what actually happened on the ascent from 60 - 70 feet to 15 feet. I did not want to die. At about 15 feet, I let out a very loud scream. I wonder if anyone heard me?

When I reached the surface, I had the presence of mind to ask Scott if he was OK. He said he was and the boat people later told me he went down to finish his dive. Back on the boat, I commented after lunch, "I know I should just get right back down on that horse and ride him-but I don't feel like it". I recall telling someone the second dive site did not look inviting at all. After we got back to the dock at the end of the day, I thanked Scott for making me do a controlled ascent. That ascent was the longest five minutes of my life. I told him I really believed he had saved my life. He responded "No, I didn't".

My story has a happy ending. I recently did my first dive since that fateful Wednesday. It had been about three months. The dive was to 55 feet for 21 minutes or so. There was a lot of plankton blooming so it was like skiing in a snowstorm. My darn mask still wasn't seated properly. At times, water was seeping in under the bottom skirt. Arghhhh!!! May go back to original mask I learned to dive with - never had a problem with that. I am looking around for some coaching and advice on diving panic attacks. I desperately want to get over these panic situations.

Theresa S.

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