Navy Divers Awarded for Life-Saving Rescue

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba -- Navy Divers at Naval Station (NS) Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were awarded Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals Jan. 23 for helping save a life.

Commanding Officer Capt. J.R. Nettleton presented the awards to four Navy Divers for their role in rescue operations that took place as a civilian diver was in distress in base waters, Jan. 20.

"Upon surfacing, the civilian diver realized there was weakness and tingling in the arms with a headache and nausea," said NS Guantanamo Bay Unlimited Diving Supervisor Navy Diver 1st Class Christopher Kerr. "After realizing something was wrong, the diver went to the emergency room (ER) at U.S. Naval Hospital (USNH) Guantanamo Bay and was assessed by the doctors as having a diving disorder. The ER contacted the Duty Response Chamber Team and from there was evaluated by Chief Navy Diver Richard Bolen using a neurological examination and was diagnosed with Decompression Sickness Type II."

According to Kerr, without proper treatment, a diving disorder could potentially result in death. In this case, there was a high possibility of permanent loss of motor functions in the arms with a chance of numbness and areas of permanently decreased sensation possible.

"We administered a Navy Treatment Table 6 treatment," said Kerr. "This treatment compresses the diver to crush the bubbles causing the problems. During treatment, 100 percent oxygen is breathed causing a saturation of oxygen in the body. The increased oxygen helps the body to start repairing itself at a much higher rate than normal healing can occur. Due to the severity of the diving disorder, we extended the treatment to allow the best possible outcome from increased oxygen therapy."

Along with Kerr, NS Guantanamo Bay's Dive Team consists of Chief Navy Diver Michael Linzy, Chief Navy Diver Richard Bolen, Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Jared Sarro, Navy Diver 1st Class Sammie Rochelle, and Navy Diver 2nd Class Cody Cash. Kerr, Sarro, Rochelle, and Sarro were the awardees.

"Diving is an enjoyable recreation activity but it is also an activity where one mistake can cause death or serious permanent damage to your body or mental status," said Kerr. "From prepping your gear before you go out to following in water procedures and making sure you don't exceed your time at depth are all things that will help keep you safe. The better shape you are in physically, the less likely a diving disorder will occur."

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