Nordic Deep stories

Safety & freediving

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Blackout

A story about a deep Blackout.

In 2001 I filmed Hubert Myer blacking out at 10-15 meters in the Ibiza world cup. I remember his twisting body with air flowing out of him - the safetydivers lifting up his limp lifeless body on to the boat and the pink foam coming out of his mouth. He had been down to70 meters. In those days we didn´t use lifelines. In the coming years we learnt that these things look much worse than they are. The epioglottis actually closes when the brain shuts of due to lack of oxygen. A reflex to stop water entering the lungs. Hubert was actually up and laughing some three minutes later.

In the first Triple depth I remmeber Wolle and Alex doing real deep blackouts - more scary for the safetydivers than for the actual divers I would say. In the clear blue Red sea it was all visible from the surface.

Now in the third Nordic Deep it happened againg in front of my eyes. I was judging a CWT/CNF/FIM competition in the green waters of the west coast of Sweden. We were anchored inbetween cliffs with 85 meters of water under us.

Klara Hansson from Sweden is attempting a national record, CNF 42 meters. A depth she has never done. We alert three safetydivers. I am judge on the surface. Klara is slow diver and after 1.35 First safety goes down only to get a equalizing problem.
1.53. Safety diver returns without seeing the athlete, signals upwards from 5 meters
1.55 Judge in water goes down directly.
2.00 Second safety goes down.
2.08 Athlete goes unconcious, I see her as it happens.
2.12 I grab Athlete at 21 meter
2.16 Second safety helps at 17 meters. He holds from behind, I hold head and block airways.
2.30 Removes mask just before surfacing and start BTT
2.42 I try 3 blows into mouth but fail due to bad position of head, cramping mouth/epiglottis. 3.02 First safety manages to blow into lungs. Epiglottis opens up.
3.08 Athlete opens eyes.

1 minut of unconciousness! - Another blackout story during a training session.

Conclusions
In the evening all athletes gather in a meeting and we see the video and discuss rescue operations. Soon we have two opinions against each other. Stig Severinsen thinks the BTT phase is unecessary and ask for more action - "Go for a quick blow into the lungs". Wolle gets very emotional and search for english words and say that this is not a useful approach. "It is impossible to blow air into the lungs of a blacked out freediver". At the meeting are a biologist specializing on diving mammals (such as us), Johan Andersson, a hyperbardoctor and scientist (Mats Linér) and a first aid medic (Daniel Fjojt). They explain to us that it is difficult to blow passed a cramping epiglottis. They support Wolles´claim that you might blow air into the stomach instead - which might lead to a throw up and the problem is even worse.

1. Do not try blowing into the lungs with the victim in the water. Water might get into mouth and down to the epiglottis and it will seal even more.

Now the medical people says something that is news for most of us. YOU CAN NOT OPEN A CRAMPING EPIGLOTTIS - it will open when the oxygen for that muscle has run out - or when the victim is persuaded to wake up.

Stig mentions that the brain listens even if you are uncouncious, and others suggest how important it is to make the victim feel safe. Safe enough to dare to start breathing again since the brain is actually trying to "save the lungs" from the water.

2. The conclusion is that the BTT (Blow tap talk) is the right approach, and...

3. Get the victim as fast as possible on to dry land if BTT does not work.

Since the new standards for CPR tells us that blowing into the lung is not the essential part of the CPR, the pumping of the heart is the most important thing. One blow into the lungs is enough and then you need 30 heartsqueezes to pump the blood up to the brain and back down to the heart and the lungs. So swimming to land stoping to do an inblow is NOT GOOD. You waste your time and you might get water down to the epiglottis. We also are told that the head has to really be bent backwards in order to open up the throat for a blow into the lungs.

Sebastian