Following on from PADI Rescue Diver: Day One, the second and final day of the PADI Rescue Diver course had us complete the skills section of the course, partake in two rescue scenarios, and finish off with an exam.
In the morning, we learned how to deal with an unresponsive diver at the surface, and how to get them back to shore whilst maintaining basic life support. Initially, we learned how to flip a diver over in the water if they were face down, establish buoyancy, check if they were breathing, ask for help from the surface, and how to give in-water rescue breaths. This was hard work in itself. You had to constantly keep the airway open and prevent water from entering it (this was easier in a lake but would be much more difficult in rough sea conditions), all the while giving rescue breaths every five seconds and towing the victim back to shore. Counting out loud really helps here… one, two, three, prepare, breathe… one, two, three, prepare, breathe….
Next up was removing kit from both yourself and the victim, whilst doing all of the above. This is where it got really difficult; bear in mind that we were doing all of this in 6°C water, bulky drysuits and thick neoprene gloves and hoods. The priority here is to continuously give rescue breaths, tow the diver, and only then remove kit. You have to get into a rhythm, moving straight to unbuckling or removing something immediately after giving a rescue breath, and if you miss one, give two long breaths before continuing. The counting again becomes helpful (it takes a couple of seconds to unclip a bit of kit)… one, two, three, prepare, breathe… unclip victim’s waist buckle, three, prepare, breathe… disconnect victim’s drysuit hose, three, prepare, breathe… loosen victim’s BCD shoulder strap, three, prepare, breathe… unclip victim’s BCD shoulder strap, three, prepare, breathe… unfasten victim’s BCD cummerbund, three, prepare, breathe… repeat all of the above for your own kit.
Once we had successfully removed both sets of kit whilst giving rescue breaths and towed the victim back to shore, we then learned how to provide emergency oxygen. This was pretty straight forward, and matched up well with what we learned from the rescue diver manual.
Now that all the skills had been completed, it was time for the scenarios. We were given some time to recover from the intense skills work, warm up a bit and get something to eat. After a little while, an instructor ran over and told us that he had just come out of the water but his dive buddy (aka Little Jimmy) hadn’t! As a group of four, we divided up the tasks; one person went around the dive centre, checking if anybody had seen the missing diver, checking if he had left, and grabbing the emergency oxygen and first aid kit for when we rescue the diver; one found out where the diver was last seen and how long he had been missing, and myself and another diver donned our kit, ready to head out and perform a missing diver search. Once it was established that the diver was well and truly missing, we set a spotter pointing at the place the missing diver was last seen, entered the water and swam over to where the spotter was pointing.
Descending quickly down a buoy line, we began the search from the top of a container (we actually had to move down the container since an open-water session descended on top of us immediately after we descended!). I started to unspool our reel to do a circular search pattern (we were told to look for a SMB that had been weighted somewhere in the lake), when we spotted our ‘missing diver’ just off the end of the container! Once we had retrieved the SMB, the dive master that had accompanied us pretended to be our unresponsive diver. Performing all the appropriate checks, we then began the task of bringing the diver to the surface; there was a complication though – the diver’s BCD inflator didn’t work! The second rescue diver ‘mounted’ the dive master and used their own BCD to bring them both to the surface instead. I surfaced just after them, ensuring that I did not ascend too rapidly. Once on the surface, we had to make the unresponsive diver buoyant; this meant removing the weight belt, and orally inflating the BCD. It turned out that this diver was carrying large amount of weight with them (simulating a possibly inexperienced, over-weighted diver), and since it was a training lake, the weight could not be dropped to the bottom. Instead, whilst one rescuer was left to tend to the victim, the other (myself) had to swim back to shore with the extra weight. This was not easy – in fact it was probably the hardest surface swim I have ever had to do! The victim was successfully towed back to shore whilst being given rescue breaths, and de-kitted on the way. We then dragged him onto shore, and began CPR whilst administering emergency oxygen. At this point the scenario ended…. or so we thought!
As soon as the victim became responsive, we heard a shout from our spotter; another diver was panicking at the surface! Since one rescuer was still in full kit, he headed back into the water to go and help, once we had passed a floatation device to him. At this point, our now responsive Little Jimmy decided he was also going to help and crashed into the water too, and promptly became panicked too! So I (relatively) quickly donned my fins, mask and snorkel, grabbed a float and headed out to go and retrieve our second panicked diver. As soon as I got close, he immediately tried to climb on top of me, but I was quick to get away, and pushed the float at him. Once he had grabbed onto it and calmed down a bit, I started to tow him back to shore. Looking over at the other rescuer though, it seemed that the other flotation device had been abandoned in favour of dragging a kicking and screaming panicked diver back (all the while crying about his lost buoy… “My Buoy! My Buoy!”, and was very reminiscent of Cast Away… “WILSON!”)! Seeing this, my ‘victim’ decided he was also going to panic. I quickly pushed him away so he didn’t drown me, and forced the float under his arm so that it was almost impossible for him to reach me! That made it much easier to tow him back. Once both divers were back, that was both scenarios finally complete, and I was knackered! We then packed up and recovered a bit, and completed a short multiple-choice exam (full-marks, by the way!).
We are now officially PADI Rescue Divers! It was definitely hard work; we learned so much from doing it, and definitely feel much more confident and prepared in the event of an emergency in the water. It is a great course to do, but I wouldn’t rush into it; some of the skills required need you to be completely comfortable with diving and the kit you are using. It is hard work too, so it really helps to be a bit fitter; we had’t fully recovered from the holiday period, so it was a bit of a shock to the system for us!