I live in San Antonio, Texas and will be eternally grateful to Virgin Islands Search and Rescue. They saved my life on Feb. 1, 2017 when I experienced a diving distress incident while diving the Rhone site off of Salt Island. On Nov. 3, 2018, I was honoured to speak at the 30th anniversary celebration of VISAR and sit at the head table with Governor Gus Jaspert and his wife, Millie. Most important to me, however, was returning to the Virgin Islands to personally thank the individuals and VISAR organisation for my life.
On Feb. 1, 2017, while on a cruise, I went on a dive excursion to the Rhone site with my buddies Tom Deberry and Floyd Legalley. I had never heard of VISAR. Soon after the dive started, I began experiencing breathing problems and ascended into the dive boat. Jason Hart administered oxygen to me and called in my distress to VISAR. The next thing I remember was regaining consciousness in the Peebles Hospital emergency room.
Meanwhile, my wife MaryJo was enjoying a beach excursion. She was called by my friend Tom Deberry and told that I’d had an accident and was unconscious and on the way to the hospital. After having also spoken to the doctor during that call, she was not told anything specific about my condition. So she then endured a one-hour ride to the hospital not knowing whether I would be alive when she arrived.
Back to VISAR, which was the purpose of my return visit to the VI. I wanted to thank each of these people personally.
I was clearly a beneficiary of being in “the right place at the right time.” That day, a number of VISAR crewmembers were working as dive professionals at the Rhone site. My distress call to VISAR came in at 10:45 a.m., and within 38 minutes a VISAR team had arrived at the dive site, assessed my condition and returned me back to the VISAR dock. Absolutely amazing! It was the response time that saved my life!
At the time Jason’s call came in to the VISAR base, Mark Sanders and Sergio Dantas happened to be at the base discussing boathouse operations. Before the text even went out to the crew, a helm and medic were suited up for the rescue trip. The VISAR boat launched with Mr. Sanders, Myk Wilson, Mr. Dantas and Nigel Keegan aboard. Mark Dobson, another VISAR crewmember already at the Rhone site, assisted as well.
A close call
VISAR’s response was truly lifesaving for me. A Peebles ER doctor told me later during my four days in the intensive care unit that upon arrival my organs had begun to shut down. Speaking of Peebles, I can’t say enough about the quality of care I received there. San Antonio, Texas has extensive medical facilities, but I would rank Peebles right there with them. I would like to specifically thank Drs. Kriste-Kaye King-Robinson, Annelise Wilkins, Harold Tan and Nehemiah Kurapati. The nursing staff was also exceptional.
I truly owe my life to God and the VISAR organisation. God must have more for me to do in this life. As for VISAR, I will financially support them for the rest of my life and encourage all VI residents to do the same.
“Thank you” seems to be inadequate, but thank you, VISAR!
By the way, earlier on the day of the VISAR celebration this month, I completed the Rhone dive I started almost two years ago.