The M/V Spree, a 100ft liveaboard dive vessel under contract to NOAA, was conducting diving operations in the Dry Tortugas off SW Florida on 15 May 2010. Around 2100 Capitan Frank Wasson of the M/V Spree overheard a radio transmission from the charter dive boat M/V Playmate to the National Park Service (NPS) rangers at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas. The transmission was regarding a diver on the M/V Playmate who was exhibiting symptoms of decompression illness (DCI) and that the vessel was headed to the fort. The NPS ranger acknowledged the vessel transmission and notified the M/V Playmate that the Park's EMT would be standing by and that NPS was initiating a medical evacuation. The NPS ranger also issued a general radio call for any available parties in the area to render assistance if capable.
At this time Captain Wasson asked his passengers if there were any medically qualified persons willing to lend assistance. NOAA Corps officers LTJG David Gothan and LTJG Justin Keesee notified the captain that they were qualified Diving Medical Technicians and that they were willing to assist the NPS EMT with the treatment of the injured diver until additional help arrived. Captain Wasson notified the NPS ranger and made arrangements for LTJG Gothan and LTJG Keesee to be transferred to shore. LTJG Gothan and LTJG Keesee gathered their DMT kits and made preparations for transport.
Upon arrival on the M/V Playmate, LTJG Gothan and LTJG Keesee found a conscious diver lying in his bunk with the main complaint of chest pains. The NPS EMT already had the diver on 100% O2 and was monitoring his vital signs, all of which were normal. Once informed of the situation LTJG Gothan continued to monitor the patient's vital signs and administered a neurologic examination, while LTJG Keesee talked with the vessel's captain gathering details on the events leading up to the incident. According to the diver and his buddy, the dive profile was not excessive, four dives to ~65fsw for 35min each. Exact times and depths were not readily available because accurate records regarding the divers' actual profile were not maintained on board and the diver’s computer was not easily accessible. According to the diver’s buddy and the captain, the diver only made four of the five scheduled dives of the day and had sat out the second to last dive because he was nervous about a shark encounter on the previous dive. 100% O2 continued to be administered to the diver for one hour while the evacuation helicopter was en route from the Florida Keys.
The patient’s vital signs remained stable throughout this period, and the neurological assessments did not show any significant deficits, however the diver’s complaint of chest pains had not subsided and the patient added that there was now some numbness in his left hand. Upon arrival of the helicopter the EMT and DMTs transferred the patient to the flight crew with his gear and all information that was gathered. LTJG Gothan and LTJG Keesee were thanked by the M/V Playmate’s captain and the NPS ranger for their assistance and were transferred back to the M/V Spree.
During a follow-up meeting between LTJG Keesee and the captain of the M/V Playmate it was determined the injured diver was treated in a recompression chamber in the Florida Keys and released with no residual symptoms.