On March 6, 2016, I went on my 294th scuba dive. It was a special one because my scuba buddy was none other than first time diver Sara, my love and my heart.
We made all the right choices and hired a pro guide to teach her everything. My only job was to stay out of the way.
We picked a shallow dive with only an 8 meter floor in a magic spot in Koh Tao island, Thailand called the Japanese Gardens. Upon dropping into the water, the magic kicked in. Visibility was crystal clear at 30 meters and within 20 seconds we saw a gorgeous 7 foot sting ray.
But this is where the problems kicked in.
Me, being overconfident and, for the first time ever, shooting video under water with a Go-Pro knock off made me an irresponsible diver. I started chasing fish at high rates of speed, I zoomed up and down without proper decompression, I let my yogic breathing go to shit – I became the asshole I had always made fun of when snowboarding – I was an underwater Go-Pro asshole.
Fifty-six minutes later of zigging and zagging with complete disregard for the fact that I was breathing underwater, I emerged. It would take 5 or 6 hours, but the damage was done.
At dinner that night, I told Sara that it felt like there was an ocean in my head. I have had water in my ears before but this was something new. It felt like the depths of my brain had an eternal wave. I was a bit freaked.
The next three nights were excruciating pain as my ears pinched and would pop letting floods of fluid gush on my pillow. No sleep, all worry. I went to seek medical attention.
My island nurse, god bless her, played it down which is what I needed to hear. She shot me in the ass (repeatedly) with painkillers and I started on antibiotics with the promise of healing in three weeks.
Three weeks later, no improvement and I was deaf in my bad ear. Sara feared the worst so we headed to the mainland to get real medical attention. The first doctor I saw at a “real Thai” hospital was a 20 year old kid who also looked wet behind behind the ears. As I described my symptoms to him, the motherfucker actually googled what I was saying….right in front of me!
We headed to a bigger city where I was diagnosed with a punctured ear drum. I was vacuum sucked with a six inch metal tube down my ear and the craziest noise/pain/relief ever. Confidant, I took one last round of antibiotics thinking everyday I would wake up better.
No dice! We headed to the big city of Chiang Mai and after 1 month of antibiotics, we knew that my window of healing was closing. It was now or never.
Luckily, I found a specialist, with perfect scientific English, who after a few X-rays (she was shocked they hadn’t x-rayed me yet) determined that it was never an ear problem I had, but a nasal cavity problem which had now developed into an infection.
She gave me the same 6 inch metal rod but up the nose this time. I instantly felt better. She started me on nasal steroids which are intense drops inhaled to the back of the cavity.
On April 12, 2016, I went underwater again for the first time since the injury. It felt OK. Def. not perfect, but I am back to being human again. Taking water away from a Pisces like me is like taking Sesame from a bun. Life is a little bland without it.
The next day was the Thai New Years – a true test considering it is also known as the World’s Largest Water fight. Sure enough, I took high powered water guns right down the ear canal and up the schnozz. I survived. I am now healed. (Ironically, Sara got a crazy strong cold and cough from the brutal water torture that is Songkran but she is on the mend faster than I)
The moral of this story is respect everything – no matter how many times you do it. I am talking to all you motorcyclists, yogis, one-night standers, etc. No matter how many times you have risked something, the risk is the same every time.
Our bodies are gifts that we need to keep on top shelves. Stay precious y’all.