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Thread: Unable to breathe on a cave dive

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    New Member FW. is an unknown quantity at this point FW.'s Avatar
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    Unable to breathe on a cave dive

    Several of us were diving Cannonball cave in Missouri. I had stuck my gloves in a pocket, because the lake is warm, so you don't need them until getting in the cave. I couldn't get them out when I got to the cave, so I dove bare handed. Good thing too!

    I had a very strange problem. I was swimming along on a Sidekick rebreather with a custom sidemount mouthpiece. I took a breath, but it was just water. I noticed the DSV floating away, but I still had the mouthpiece in my mouth. I grabbed a bailout reg, but I wasn't getting any air. I grabbed the other bailout reg, still no air. I tried the purge button, and the reg was working fine. I finally tried breathing while purging, and realized I was getting a little, but very little air. I tried coughing then breathing, and it took several attempts to get my breathing back to normal. I suspect if I had my gloves on, this all would have been a lot harder to do.

    The following is from Dr. Andy Pitkin, rebreather diver, and medical doctor:

    It was your glottis, aka laryngeal inlet, aka vocal cords which were shut. The phenomenon is called laryngospasm, and most of us have experienced a mild form of it while eating when we accidentally inhale a piece of food and cough profusely. When that happens you cannot talk for a few minutes, which is due to the residual spasm in the vocal cords. That is a minor version of what you experienced, and it can be severe enough to completely block the airway for several minutes in certain circumstances. It is triggered by foreign material (water, food etc.) on the vocal cords and in the upper trachea, and it is the traditional explanation for the phenomenon of "dry drowning", where the victim does not have any water in their lungs.

    When it happens during anesthesia (typically in children during emergence) the first line treatment is to apply positive airway pressure which is essentially what you did with the purge button.

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    RBW Member cb1 is an unknown quantity at this point cb1's Avatar
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    Re: Unable to breathe on a cave dive

    Thanks for sharing, a scary experience!

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    Re: Unable to breathe on a cave dive

    That is a fascinating story. You did well not to lose your rag and panic. Experience has some benefits!

    I completely agree with Andy's evaluation of it.

    Simon M

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    Re: Unable to breathe on a cave dive

    Omg that’s a good reading, thanks for sharing


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    RBW Member alpine44 is on a distinguished road alpine44 is on a distinguished road alpine44's Avatar
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    Re: Unable to breathe on a cave dive

    Had the same happen on OC after a sloppy regulator change.

    In case it was not clear between the lines of the previous posts: DO NOT ASCEND WITH BLOCKED AIRWAY. You need to fight the urge to bolt.

    Aside from the risk of PBT/AGE, bolting to the surface is pointless anyway if you can't take a breath.
    Last edited by alpine44; 22nd June 2018 at 23:20.

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    Re: Unable to breathe on a cave dive

    Thanks for sharing!


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    New Member FW. is an unknown quantity at this point FW.'s Avatar
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    Re: Unable to breathe on a cave dive

    Quote Originally Posted by alpine44  View Original Post
    Had the same happen on OC after a sloppy regulator change.

    In case it was not clear between the lines of the previous posts: DO NOT ASCEND WITH BLOCKED AIRWAY. You need to fight the urge to bolt.

    Aside from the risk of PBT/AGE, bolting to the surface is pointless anyway if you can't take a breath.
    While I would agree that bolting to the surface would be bad, a controlled ascent may open the larynx as effectively as forcing air into the lungs.

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    RBW Member Spitfire is an unknown quantity at this point Spitfire's Avatar
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    Prism2

    Re: Unable to breathe on a cave dive

    A laryngospasm is a terrible experice, even worse when it happens in a cave.
    You can be lucky as it often ends with becoming unconscious, which again, in a cave is even worse than in open water.

    for further info about it, you find some interesting facts here:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laryngospasm

    from my experience and what my scubadoc says, it is mostly caused when you inhale cold moist air by not clearing the reg propperly before you breathe in.

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    RBW Member AJF is an unknown quantity at this point AJF's Avatar
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    Re: Unable to breathe on a cave dive

    Thank you for sharing this!

  10. #10
    Fake Diver Jeff Pack will become famous soon enough Jeff Pack will become famous soon enough Jeff Pack will become famous soon enough Jeff Pack will become famous soon enough Jeff Pack's Avatar
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    Re: Unable to breathe on a cave dive

    rather than purge button on bail, can a dil or o2 manual add filling counter lungs and creating pressure do the same thing?

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