Sunday, May 19, 2013

Saying Goodbye...

Anyone that knows us will tell you that we love scuba diving, and we love love love teaching people to scuba. It's great to see someone's face when they walk out of the water and describe what they just saw underwater to their non-diving friends or family. Hundreds of shrimp, a giant pacific octopus, nudibranches, squid, ling cod, and so much more. So why did it have to end so abruptly? 

There are several reasons, but I'm only going to share one. I've always had a problem staying warm, in and out of the water. Even when I was living in Hawaii, California, and Florida, ten minutes in pool water and I would start shivering. With all of the advancements in fiber technologies, I've been able to solve most of my problems out of the water with smart wool and thinsulate. Unfortunately, things weren't going quiet as well underwater.

In early 2009 I started experiencing shooting pains in my left arm.  I was also noticing pain in my feet and my hands during and after dives.  I was diving in a dry suit with attached gloves, so the only thing actually exposed to the water was my head.  On most dives, my body was warm, but my hands and feet were almost always cold.  It didn't really matter to me, it was temporary, and I wasn't going to let a little thing like cold hands and feet stop me from diving and teaching in cold water.  

Pop.  That's the sound that woke me up early one Saturday morning.  I was shifting positions in bed when I heard a loud pop and felt lightning shoot through my right arm.  A few hours later, I was diving with a couple of students when I noticed the pain in my right arm and shoulder increasing.  After cleaning and putting all of my scuba gear away, I talked to Steve about the pain in my shoulder.  It felt like my shoulder was being torn apart.  By 1:00 am I was in more pain than I could handle, and decided it was time to see a doctor.

Herniated disks.  After more than ten hours in the hospital, Dr. Peter Brown tells us that my 5th, 6th, and 7th thoracic disks were herniated, pinching the nerves that ran down both of my arms causing shooting pains, numbness, and tingling.  In May 2009 Dr. Brown performed a discectomy, and successfully resolved the shooting pain issue.  Six weeks later I was back in the water.  However, the surgery did not end the numbness or tingling in my hands and feet.

My Hand With Raynaud’s Disease
My Hand With Raynaud’s Disease

During my last few months of diving, things were getting worse.  I felt like I was walking on blocks of wood.  I started leaving my gloves on until everyone was gone so no one would see how bad my fingers were, or dipping them in hot water until the color returned.  

I was working with a doctor to try to find a way to deal with the problem so I could continue diving.  Unfortunately, nothing worked, and some of the solutions made things worse.  The doctor says this is Raynaud’s disease.  On recent dives, I noticed my feet sometimes turning blue and purple, and the throbbing and pain lasting four hours after a dive.  

After a recent sports physical, my doctor and I talked about the risks of diving in cold water with this worsening condition.  With more than half my life ahead of me, I decided it's time to start taking better care of myself.  It took me a couple of months to make a final decision, and it has been tough saying goodbye to such a wonderful part of our lives, but no more cold water diving, for fun or teaching.

Now we are looking forward to our next warm water vacation...