I’ve been diving since 2013. A little over a year ago, I was scheduled to go on a One World Dive and Travel’s All Girls trip to Little Cayman Island. I planned my retirement for January 22, 2016 and the trip was to be my big celebration. Everything changed on January 17th, 2016, when I suffered a stroke that affected my left side. It was a complete shock to everyone, as I am generally quite healthy. My only warning had been a series of brief but intense headaches over the two previous days. I was with friends on the way to a cross country ski trip near Aspen. After the headaches, I decided not to ski and had planned to see my doctor when I returned home. I drove myself home all the way from Carbondale that Sunday, and 2 hours later the stroke happened. I was very lucky it didn’t happen while driving.
As a Physical Therapist, I knew what had happened. Fortunately, I could talk and was able to call for help. The local hospital emergency room sent me to the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver and by Monday morning I was having a procedure to examine the vessels of my brain. There had been a bleed inside my brain but fortunately it had stopped and no surgery was needed. WHEW! I remained in Neuro intensive care for several days and began to improve. Physical and occupational therapy was started when my condition was stable and I was moved out of ICU. After 8 days I went to a rehabilitation unit for more therapy before I was able to return home. I could walk by myself with two hiking poles but my endurance was only five or ten minutes. My coordination wasn’t very good.
I have a lot of active friends that helped me build up strength and endurance but I thought for sure that I would not be able to ever scuba dive again. By May I was hiking 2-3 miles over moderate terrain. My rehab doctor, who also is a scuba diver, told me that I could possibly return to diving if I continued to improve. WOW! REALLY? Could that be possible? I talked to Michelle at One World Dive and Travel and explained my situation. She and Kim were very supportive and willing to work with me towards a goal if the doctors cleared me to dive. The next Girls Dive Trip was going to be in March 2017 at Little Cayman. I had a goal! I kept working on endurance and by the end of the summer I was hiking 6 to 7 miles. My coordination had improved. I wrote to Diver’s Alert Network and received information on stroke survivors and scuba diving. It was helpful and I got a good understanding of specific things to discuss with my doctors. When I returned to University Hospital in October for follow up I had a frank discussion with the neurologist. Her advice was to avoid diving for at least a full year after the stroke and see how I felt. If I continued to improve and had no symptoms, then I could try shallow dives. GREAT NEWS!
I knew I had to be completely honest with anyone who might dive with me and Michelle and Kim offered to buddy with me if I made it on the Girls Trip. Being a dive buddy is a big responsibility, especially with my medical history. In December I went to Little Cayman, not to dive, but to get in the water and swim. It felt so good to be back in the ocean. The next step was to get in a pool with my dive gear. So In February, my friend Millie Kinnett did that with me. I was nervous at first, but after a few minutes I was relaxing at the bottom of the 15' pool. I practiced my skills and the only thing I had difficulty with was putting on and clearing my mask underwater. I realized that my coordination was still a little off but with practice I was able to do it easily. Yahoo!
March 4, 2017…..off to Little Cayman. It was so good to see some of the friends that I had met on the Bonaire trip 2 years earlier. First dive day…….yes I was nervous. Michelle and I went in last. After a few minutes of buoyancy problems and a leaky mask, I was diving again. WOW! After the third day I was feeling comfortable again. I was being conservative, choosing to do the 2nd and 3rd dives each day so I wasn’t going very deep and I had a good rest in between dives. It worked out really well. Everyone on the trip was so helpful and supportive. I would not have wanted to return to diving with any other group.
I realized what it is about diving that I LOVE so much……gently floating along with minimal effort, being neutrally buoyant, being a part of the underwater world…... I just relaxed and took it all in. I WAS AT PEACE, BACK IN MY HAPPY PLACE! The possibility of never diving again made me appreciate it so much more. Thanks to all of the people who helped me along the way. Thanks to One World Dive and Travel for getting me back to something I love.
Article courtesy of Milli Goodman