Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Being a Good Buddy

As is often the case, inspiration for a blog post comes from listening to the stories of other divers.In t The world of diving I came from there was a mixture of newbies with older, more experienced divers. This mix meant that individuals did not have to learn the hard way with the older divers adding a level of caution and responsibility to the group as a whole. These days active technical dive groups are few and far between and where they do exist they tend to comprise almost exclusively newbies. This means that the normal self regulating buddy influence is not as strong as it needs to be. Each member of the group is at the same level so there is a tendency for individuals to not take seriously the feedback or concerns of the rest of the group. Likewise iindividuals in the group are still finding their confidence so do not have a solid set of standards that they are prepared to enforce (like refusing to dive with a buddy who is drinking, or refusing to dive with a buddy who is piggy backing on your computers and has not done his own planning).
This sense of uncertainty extends to situations where a buddy pushes his limits to the point of being physically affected. He gets out the water looking a tad pale and then starts to throw up (discretely). What do you do ? There is a good chance that the buddy is not going to take kindly to being driven to the closest hospital just because he is throwing up. Do you leave him ? After all he is a grown up! Where does individual responsibility end ? Where do you draw your own personal line ?
I understand the dilemma having had a similar experience with a very close friend. He was doing support at 100 meters when i was doing one of my deep build ups (140 m if I remember correctly). By the time I was out the water he was already back at camp with a migraine and throwing up.
This raised alarm bells for me. Yes, he was prone to migraines, but one of the fundamental guidelines for making decisions on a diving trip is that all physical symptoms are first attributed to diving and a possible bend, then to normal day to day niggles. No-one wants to make something big out of something small, so our tendency as individuals is to mind our own business and do nothing. By 6 in the evening my buddy was worse and still throwing up. He was also belligerent and refusing help. We phoned Dan!
They recommended we take him to the closest hospital. We were loathe to do that, after all it was probably just a migraine and hospital sounded like over kill. We would also have to force our friend to go. By 8pm the situation had not changed and as a group we realized that we would rather look foolish on Sunday then have a good friend seriously and permanently injured. We dragged him kicking and screaming to the hospital. They were also unsure but sent him off to the chamber just I case and a good thing to, because it took a chamber treatment to recover his memory and get him better. We are still not sure what exactly happened. It was probably a cerebral bend which meant if we had done nothing our friend would have been permanently impaired.
What did I learn from this ? Two things, firstly you look more foolish when you do not react as if it is serious and secondly, I need to be able to live with myself and that I do not want to live with the guilt of having done nothing and seeing some-one die or become crippled. Most of the things I regret in diving involve not speaking up. You may not change anything by speaking up, but you at least offer the individual the opportunity to make a different choice.
This means that I am vocal about my expectations of a buddy because it is not only about them, I have to live with what happens as well. We agree before hand how we expect each other to behave. I expect my buddies to tell me if they are concerned about decisions I am or am not making. I expect them to keep an eye on me after a dive because I know that if I am not feeling well I probably will not mention anything and it will probably take someone making something of it before I go to hospital. I expect my buddy to have high standards and to care about his life and mine!
So next time you are on a trip and you see yoru buddy acting in a way that will endanger his life or your own, speak up! If you are still uncomfortable do not do the dive (or at least not with him). Keep an eye on your buddy after a dive and check up on him. If he seems to be ill call him on it. Phone DAN and ask for their advice.
Remember, life is too short for regrets and trust me, when something goes wrong you will regret doing nothing and ‘going along’ to keep the peace. I would rather have a buddy who is cross with me, than a dead or impaired one.