Charity Number: 279652


11 December 2018

We have the most amazing patients at DDRC Healthcare and they often show their thanks and gratitude to our doctors, nurses, administrators and chamber staff. One such patient wanted to share his story with us.

Read Antonio’s testimonial written in his own words:

“Location: Devil’s Point, Plymouth. Weather: a clear and warm summer evening

My name is Antonio Sardu, I am a well-qualified diver with the experience of many thousands of dives mostly in UK but also abroad.I have dived in Eastern Kings (also known as Firestone Bay) and Devil’s Point at the mouth of the river Tamar since qualifying as a diver more than twenty-five years ago.

John, a very good friend of mine and a diving companion for 20 years sent me a message asking me if I was up for an evening dive at Devil’s Point. I replied I had my gear ready and a fill of 28% nitrox in my 15litre and 40% in my pony.Devil’s Point is not a dive for inexperienced divers, but the conditions were perfect. John and I know the area well, having dived Devil’s and Eastern Kings hundreds of times.We got ready in the car park and after the final checks walked down to the platform, to finally jump in.

Our intention was to gradually slope down to about 32-36m to see the small caverns and sea life (usually flat spinal lobsters, some small lobsters and shrimps) and then go down to the bottom where there is a huge cavern with a high ceiling. During the whole dive we stayed side by side and when inside the cavern we had a good look around as normally we see a huge conger eel. We left the cavern and once we touched the sea bed at 43.3m we decided to turn back as we had accumulated a deco time of 15 minutes. The ascent was gradual at 3 minutes per 10m. Once we reached what we call “the triangle,” (an arched wall between the Royal William Yard Steps at a depth of 5.5 meters) we waited out the rest of our decompression time. With one minute remaining, at a depth of 4.5 meters we made our way back to the steps to exit the water.

John went up first and I followed. I soon started to realise that something was not right! I developed a stitch on the left side of my abdomen and ribs which was very tender to touch. As I reached the platform I told John I was not feeling well. John seemed preoccupied, asking me if I needed help with the gear. I replied that I thought I could manage by myself. Going up the steps from the platform to the carpark path, the pain increased and I became unsteady on my legs, losing strength in them.

As I struggled to climb the steps, the pain became unbearable and at this point I told John I was feeling really bad. I had to drop my bottles, falling onto my knees and elbows. At this point the pain was excruciating, I could not control it and started screaming. John got really worried and told me he would go to get help. I could barely understand or think at this point, the pain had taken away all rationality from me. I was trying to concentrate and remain focused, but the pain was too much to bear.

John came back with a couple who heard me screaming all the way from the car park. He was on the phone to the emergency services and the Plymouth DDRC Hyperbaric Centre. The other guy asked how he could help, while the woman offered to call my wife using her mobile. At this point, I turned on my back, trying to find a comfortable position that hopefully would ease the pain. It was then that I felt my legs becoming unresponsive from the waist down. It happened so quickly, from feeling a numbness on my toes and then suddenly with a speed of a spreading fire, it spread up my legs all the way to my waist.I now realised I was suffering from an embolism and one can imagine what my thoughts were at this point: ”Am I going to be paralyzed forever? Is the embolism going to work his way up to the rest of my body? Am I going to die from cardiac arrest?”  I lost all my rationality and focus, I could not even hear anymore what the man that came to help was saying to me.

John was trying to reassure me by saying that the ambulance was on the way.  I tried to regain some control of my mind and, as a miracle, I remembered that I had the pony with 40% nitrox in it. I tried to stretch my left arm to grab the regulator. The man helped pass it to me so that I could start breathing from it. Eventually the paramedics in a 4×4 arrived with a pure O2. They unzipped my dry suit to make me more comfortable and removed my accessory gear. By this time my wife and daughter had arrived and an ambulance was at the car park. I was lifted onto the stretcher, carried to the car park where I would be lifted onto the ambulance stretcher.  By this time, I had regained some control of my legs and the paramedics helped me to stand up and lay on the stretcher. Before I sat down however, I felt I was going to be sick and vomited a couple of times, I think due to the stomach contractions caused by the pain.

The paramedics were excellent, keeping me on O2 all the way to Derriford hospital. I kept my computer in my hand so that the DDRC medics could download the dive for analysis. Once at the A&E I was put on a hospital stretcher and put on one side whilst waiting to have an ECG and a neurological assessment from the doctor. Following assessment, the Doctor told me I had suffered a severe Spinal embolism and was to be sent urgently to DDRC which was ready to receive me. Despite the time (around 01:00am) the staff were smiling, attentive and very professional. I went into the hyperbaric chamber with a chamber assistant who took great care of me until 09:45 of Tuesday 17th July.

After nine days of hyperbaric treatment and assessments, I have regained full use of my right leg, but I am still limping on the left leg. I have some numbness, weakness and the feeling of having a cushion under the sole of the left foot. After an MRI test, arranged by the DDRC doctors, which luckily showed no damage to the spine nervous system, I was told by the doctors that now I will have to attend physiotherapy and give time to heal with no diving for at least three months.  I will be re-assessed by the DDRC doctors to ascertain if all the symptoms have finally disappeared.

Thanks to the very well qualified and knowledgeable doctors and staff at Plymouth DDRC Healthcare. They did an exceptionally fantastic job taking care of me, always with a smile on their faces (despite the time of the day in which I had to go into the chamber!). If it was not for them, who knows where I would be now!”