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After your partner blacks out

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Well-Known Member
Mar 10, 2005
I was just thinking about this the other day. What good is a partner if he doesnt know what do you after a diver blacks out. I was wondering what the best procedure is to help revive a blacked out diver.
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I have not had to use any of these techneques but I saw them on a diving show that talked about SWB. If your partner blacked out under water, the first thing is to grab him and release both weigth belts. They said to hold the head while going up, one hand holding there mask on and covering there mouth and the other on the back of the head. Once you hit the surfice take off their mask and blow on their eyes, this was supposed to induce a breathing reflex. they said that most people start breathing within a few seconds of this. You can also call there name. They said not to shake or slap the person, I don't know why though. I heard CPR is very hard to perform in the water if you don't have a floatation board, but if nothing else is working, you got to try it. And don't continue diving if you or your partner blacks out.
If your spearfishing you should watch your partner even after surfacing because they can still black out. Just recently in Maui a diver died. His partner said he came up all right but a few moment later he turned back to look at him and he was floating under water. Sad story.
Dive safe.
this is why we teach everyone on the AIDA * and ** courses what to do when someone blacks out - and all the divers at SaltFree practice this regularly - but if you can't afford the training, the crucial thing is to keep the airways out of the water and encourage the diver to breathe - I would also recommend that anyone freediving or buddying know how to do Rescue Breathing and CPR. When people say you don't need training to freedive, this safety side of it would be my biggest argument why everyone should have training of some kind.

remember - a buddy who has no idea what to do if you have a problem is quite simply NOT a buddy, you may as well be on your own

I only did 3 comps (Rouen, Paris, Nîmes) but I was very impressed by the number and above all the spectacular character of black-outs and sambas I could see...

I was struck by the time taken to recover, sometimes fomllowed by tears...

A samba is even more spectacular than a black out since there are violent and erratic moves...

I have a question concerning the prevention : among the factors occasioning a black out, what about eating and drinking ?

I have heard that it was good to come to a comp with an empty stomach, which I can understand for static (disminish the metabolism and thus the oxygen consumption...) but then isn't there a risk of hypoglycemia ?
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Just a few remarks: Sometimes it is much faster to keep ascending using already gained bouyancy and momentum then releasing both weightbelts. It just a matter of what seems to get your partner up the fastest.
Still, when on the surface releasing wieght belts might help to treat him, especially of the sea is high or the safety (=you) wear a monofin (makes it harder to support airways above water).

Another note: when doing safety, you should ascend at the same level or slightly lower than your partner's because if he blacks out it allows a reasonably quick reaction time to grab him immediately - like he falls into your hands (because he slows) and you swip him to the surface, instead of missing him or pulling him from above.

I think everyone should practice it once in a while.
Good tips, Deep

One thing that was mentioned was not knowing why you should never slap or yell at a person coming out of an submerged blackout.

The larynx spasms itself shut as an automatic reaction to the body shutting down in water, in the aim of keeping water out of the airway. I forget the medical term, but it wears off as the person slowly comes to, unless prolonged by further trauma that the body blindly detects.

If the "buddy" yells, slaps, or does something to try and scare the blackout victim into conciousness, it can have adverse effects. If the blackout victim's body senses more trauma (such as a frantic buddy smacking your cheeks and yelling), it will continue to try and protect itself, with the larynx still squeezed closed, and thus the airway primarily blocked.

Instead, calmly talk to the blackout victim as if you were waking him/her out of a post-operation anesthetic, blowing on the eyes until he/she draws a breath and opens his/her eyes. Soft stimulation, such as caressing the face, neck, arms and stroking the hair is a good way to let the body know that it is in a safe condition to reawake. Most people's bodies seems to inherently recognize such sociological creature comforts.

Another more dangerous setback of slapping/yelling at a blackout victim, in some of the more serious cases of longterm blackouts from traumatic situations, is that the person might go into shock. And a diving buddy undergoing shock is a whole 'nuther can'o'worms that you don't want to deal with when you're yet back on the boat, let alone on shore in short distance from medical attention.
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A few suggestion on what to do with all kinds of incidents can be read here:

In short: Blow- tap-talk

And the blowing doesnt have to be in the eyes, the sensors reacting are actually above mouth around nose area.

Slapping is no good as mentioned above, but if you are Italian you can do it (its sort of dramatic and macho).

sinkweight said:
I forget the medical term
Laryngospasm. :)
And as far as I know, the sensors that are connected to the laryngospasm reflex that you blow air on are roughly 2-3cm under the eyes (on the chick bones). I could be wrong though.

And Sebastian: rofl!
I could tell you part of my body that'd wake me up from having been blown.

But I'd probably go right back to sleep.
Ahem. Back to the subject at hand. I think I might take a CPR/Lifeguard course, just to better myself. I'm a strong swimmer, and hopefully I'll make a good diving buddy.

I've been diving solo for a long, long time. I'd like to feel safe about staying under longer these days, but without a cherub over my shoulder, I've been unable to push myself to new limits.
it is also good to talk about the procedures with your buddy from time to time. just verbaly go through what to do if something goes wrong. new procedures and knowledge is poping up in different places all the time, and just someone mention it in a conversation somewhere might be the one little thing that makes a recovery go smoother. talking about it is also an easy way of staying aware of the possibility of something going wrong, and might make you react faster when it does.

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