Under Pressure

Posted on May 3, 2017


The pain started as a tight squeeze on the bridge of my nose. I lifted my face upwards looking at the sunlight shining through the water and exhaled hard. The corners of my mask clamped down onto my face as water and air were forced out of the bottom. The pressure eased momentarily, but as I drifted down deeper into the ocean the sharpness came back. This time behind my right eye socket. My head felt heavy and numb. My hearing was blocked. It was a weird sensation.

I watched frustrated as the other diver floated down effortlessly. Despite the discomfort I convinced myself that if I took the descent slowly I would be ok. Wrong. Any blocked ear, mouth or nose passages at depth is not a safe way to dive because at depth pressure increases.

My right nostril was blocked. I took a deep breath and came up, slowly, blowing hard into my mask. Pop! Pop! Went my ears but the dull ache had not disappeared. I watched my depth gauge: 7m…10m…12m….15m. Now the pain was a throb in the roof of my mouth. The same feeling post a visit to the dentist. Even my gums hurt and all this was concentrated on the right hand side of my face. Why did I stay down? Stupidity. I always believe I can push through most pain thresholds, but not this time.

Yesterday I woke up with a sore throat. I’ve been diving and swimming non stop with just three days off in 22days. It was bound to happen even with 8/9 hours sleep every night, my body is tired and this kind of training I guess is a shock to anyone’s system.

The sore throat had evolved into a runny nose by last night and after Lemsip, Ibuprofen and an early night I had hoped I’d be on the mend. But this morning I had to clear both nostrils with decongestant spray. At work I suited up, thought nothing of it, and didn’t mention my cold to anyone when I boarded the boat.

The dive was not memorable for me. It was punctuated with spikes of pain. The ascent was almost as bad as the descent. During the three minute safety stop at five metres I felt like my head was about to explode and when I finally emerged after 44minutes I had the mother of all nose bleeds in the water. I coughed up congealed bits of blood as red mucous blobs found their way into my throat. That shocked the hell out of me. Luckily I’ve not damaged anything other than pride. As a dive master trainee I should know better than to dive with blocked sinuses.

I’m banned from diving for at least three days, or until my cold has cleared up. This is necessary but I’m not happy about it. I’d just started to make progress on my water skills. I got 5 out of 5 for my treading water skills this morning (15minutes using legs and hands, and then an additional two minutes using just legs with hands out of the water). I was hoping to do the ‘100m tired diver tow’ skill today but that didn’t happen after my mishap and mapping a dive site is also now pushed back until next week.

I’m doubly annoyed at the timing of my illness because tomorrow there is a Hammerhead Shark Dive which i’ll miss out on. Those trips are rare and knowing my luck I bet the guests will see schools of sharks. But to be honest if a dive at 18m was this painful there is no way on earth I’d be able to endure the pressure from a blocked nostril at 30+m. God knows the consequence!

My instructor has told me I have enough time to do everything and to be patient – something I am not good at, but I’m working on it.

The doctor has told me to make sure I’m 100 per cent before re entry or I could risk damaging myself. 

And the drummer has told me to stop whinging.