Jaws of Death

May 1st, 2006
by Alfonso Ebanks

[private] v4-5-Our IslandsOn the twelfth of last month I felt the jaws of death slowly closing around my body. It was a beautiful day and I took the family to the beach for swimming and general relaxation. After lunch I suggested someone accompany me on my usual swim around a small rocky peninsula jutting out from the beach.

No one felt like making the swim because it normally took about two hours as I would usually dive for Spanish lobster and whelks on the swim around the rock. I was determined to make the swim and took off on my own.

Within the first few minutes I had caught and released two small lobsters and in so doing I had broken my snaring device so I decided to forget about lobsters and go straight away to dive for whelks.

I swam rapidly towards the deeper part of the swim to look for whelks, and I found some. Whelks use a suction cup type mechanism to adhere to the rocks and it can sometimes take a lot of effort to dislodge them. The under-tow was such that I had to make a constant effort to remain in position. On the third dive I felt a reaction in my chest, at first I thought it was gas moving in my stomach so I continued to pry on the whelk in an attempt to dislodge it, but I failed so I came to the surface for air. The reaction in my chest had increased so I checked my pulse and what I felt sent me into a panic.

My heart rate had increased to about two hundred beats per minute and even that rhythm was quite irregular. I was having a heart attack and I was all alone. The first thing that came to mind was that if I passed out I would drown. While making my way toward the dry part of the rocks I saw a boat coming out of the west.

With a great effort I started swimming out of the reef towards the route the boat would have to take, signalling as I went. The kindly person took me aboard and carried me to the beach where my family was. On the beach I took some aspirin and some medication for a high a blood pressure condition I’ve been living with for the last seventeen years. By the time I reached the clinic my heart had stabilized and was back to its normal rhythm.

Apparently all the physical activity required to fight the current and dislodge the whelks was just too much for the old ticker and it went into an arrhythmic condition. This condition is not heart damaging and is not accompanied by chest pains like a normal heart attack. It is just a matter of getting the blood pressure to normal and calming down the patient.

Neither of these states is easily attained under these conditions. Even a suspected heart attack creates fear and fear pumps adrenaline into the system which elevates blood pressure and heart rate. Believe me it is not too easy to calm down when you think you are dying.

I would like to thank my family, also Michael and Matthew, for their quick action and decisive response to the situation. I would also like to thank Dr. Keith for his quick response to my wife’s phone call and thanks to the nurses Gladys and Aracely for coming in on their day off. I appreciate the gestures of concern and the inquiries as to my condition made by all our friends and neighbours. If you are at risk for a heart attack, never do anything that you cannot stop doing at the first sign of trouble and never ever dive alone. [/private]

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