Saturday, June 22

Teen suffers from ‘the bends’ after surviving diving incident off Juno Beach

A Texas family is waiting on answers after a father died during a diving trip with his 14-year-old son off Juno Beach.

“My grandson that was here with him. They’ve been coming here since he was 8 to go diving,” Kelly Bezayiff, the teen’s grandmother, said.

The teen is in the care of his grandmother but said his quick assent caused him to get decompression sickness also known as “the bends.”

“He shot up so fast because he knew something was wrong,” Bezayiff said. “He’s doing OK. He’s with me right now.”

Director of hyperbaric medicine Dr. Robert Borrego, who is also a diver, said “the bends” often happens to divers.

He said when divers have been breathing compressed air in deep waters, the pressure causes the nitrogen to mix with the blood.

Borrego said “the bends” happen when a diver rises to the surface too quickly, not giving the nitrogen a chance to exit the body, which he said could be deadly.

“If the bubbles get through into the circulation, and instead the bubbles go into the spinal cord, it could cause paralysis or any other neurological problems,” Borrego said. “If it goes into the brain, it could cause a stroke.”

Borrego said the deeper the dive, the more pressure you have on your body.

“From the pain, people will walk around bent over so that’s why it’s called ‘the bends,'” Borrego said.

He said he sees three to five cases of the bends weekly, a number that he said is higher during spring break. The largest number of cases occurs in the summer.

“The biggest reason we see is [because of] inexperience. A lot of people come, and they’re a weekend-warrior, and they don’t have the experience to be diving in a harsh environment,” Borrego said. “There are currents that are tough to deal with. They go beyond the limits that they’re supposed to be doing.”

Borrego said air travel, heavy exercise and being dehydrated before a dive can all make you vulnerable to the bends.

“I did a dive in 170 feet. I shot some fish, had no problems going up or down into the water column,” Mike Sipos, an experienced diver and spear fisherman, said.

He said he got “the bends” even after hitting all his decompression stops.

“It felt like I got uppercutted and the world just started spinning around me,” Sipos said.

He said “the bends” impacted his hearing, and he couldn’t walk in a straight line for a couple of weeks.

Sipos said other mild symptoms lasted months.

“If you see a diver with those symptoms, it’s a game of getting them back to the chamber or getting them the help they need so they don’t have persistent symptoms or permanent damage,” Sipos said.

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