Saving Ali

The DANGER of freaking out

By Sujata Devadas, April 24, 2018

The honeymooner

Libyan tourist Ali* and his bride arrived at Fujairah in 2013 for their honeymoon. Aware that Fujairah is a popular diving location, Ali decided to do the one-day Discover Scuba Diving course at Al Boom Diving School that involved one dive in the swimming pool and another dive in the sea along with a diving instructor. (*in accordance with respect for privacy, the tourist's name is fictional.)

Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI)Dive Master and Emergency First Response (EFR) Instructor Eslam Samer, accompanied Ali forhis first dive in the Arabian Sea. He followed PADI stipulations and briefed the tourist about their dive 8 metres into the sea, the duration they would be under water,the kind of fish they would see and the diving signals to be used to indicate whether going up or down, or if Ali was out of air or faced some trouble. Ali confirmed he understood and was ready to dive. A boat took them into the ocean for diving at Al Aqa.

The danger of panic

All went well until Ali saw a black-tipped reef shark. His intense fright caused a nasty turn for the worse. Ali panicked and spat the regulator out of his mouth. He fumbled to get hold of the Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) strapped to his waist to inflate it and surge out of the water and exit the sea.If he had succeeded in inflating the BCD, he could have died. The vast volume of sea water surrounding the diver exerts greater and greater

Islam Samer with a black-tipped shark

pressure on the diver’s body as he or she goes deeper into the water. The lungs have less space. So they are in a constricted position.

Risking the lungs

Deep inside the water, if the diver then inflates his BCD and surges up in seconds,

the sudden release from their earlier constricted position causes the lungs to

expand so quickly that its walls can split open. All scuba divers are taught this

essential reason to limit the speed at which they rise up to the surface: their body

needs time to adjust as the pressure exerted on it lessens while they move up.

Saving the tourist

Eslam Samer accompanies a tourist diver

The regulator helps a diver to breathe. By spitting it out, Ali risked the danger of drowning. PADI instructor Eslam did two things together: he held Ali’s BCD tight with his left hand to prevent the tourist from inflating it; at the same time, Eslam picked up Ali’s regulator with his right hand and put it back in Ali’s mouth. Then he used the diving signal to tell Ali, “calm down, go easy”.

Fear still swept through Ali. He spat the regulator out again. Larger than

Eslam, he kicked and pushed away 

from the instructor to free himself.He swam up using his fins but without inflating the BCD as he had attempted earlier. This critical factor, his slower ascent, did not injure his lungs, but just below the surface, he lost consciousness.

Eslam followed the out-of-control tourist back to the surface and found him

unconscious. He held on to Ali, inflated his and the diver’s BCD to keep them afloat,

then sent a message to the boat, waiting some distance away. Rocks and boulders

prevented the boat from reaching them. So Eslam held the unconscious man by his

side and swam to where the boat could reach them. Together, the boat’s driver and

Eslam lifted Ali into the boat, removed his diving equipment and checked his pulse

and breathing. Eslam performed the PADI Cycle of Care.

Reason to respect them

As Ali regained consciousness, Eslam tapped his cheek and asked, “Are you okay?

Can you see me?” Ali looked so troubled, he was taken to an adjacent clinic. His first sentences with recovery were “I saw a shark. It was going to eat us today”. Although Ali felt his panic at his first-encounter-with-a-shark was justified, Eslam explained the reason not to do so. “We are the ones invading the small harmless  black-tipped sharks’ habitat. These sharks live in the Arabian Sea. They have not harmed a diver. They just swim past them.”

PADI instructor Eslam was sent with the tourist for the valuable purpose of giving

him the right guidance in case of trouble. Having dived over 5 years in coastal

Oman, Dibba, Khorfakkan and Fujairah in UAE, Barcelona in Spain, Seychelles islands

in the Indian Ocean and Cape Town in South Africa, Eslam had definitely faced risks

before. He also knew the importance of staying calm. Flouting his instructions could

have resulted in Ali’s death during his honeymoon.

The man who saved

PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, Eslam Samer 

Eslam discovered diving by quirky coincidence. He trained 2 years for qualifying as a sky-diver at the

Egyptian Army Club as a high school student. When he reached UAE in 2008, a pharmacist and sales manager at the Japanese pharmaceutical company Takeda, sceptics in a Dubai organisation told him to do the sky-diving course over again.

Instead of futile fuming, Eslam turned his dejection into a weekend at Jebel Ali Resort & Spa where he made his first foray into diving. That changed the course of his involvement in adventure sports.

Promptly, he did an open water diving course to dive 18 metres depth, then the advanced course to dive further

in to 30 metres. He understood the central role of the dive master, the assistant instructor and the instructor in the training environment. It shaped Eslam’s resolve to turn this hobby into a career.

His aspiration

“Viewing marine wonders, along with other divers, revolutionised my view of nature,

my lifestyle too. Exploring this silent marine world is relaxing and wonderful. If I

achieve the position of a diving instructor, I can accompany divers and brief them on

the depth of the chosen diving location, pair diving buddies, give information about

the aquatic life in that area and caution divers: “do not touch crabs”, “be careful”,

“follow my signal”… Without a question, I wanted to promote recreational diving

and be a diving instructor, helping people realise nature’s value.” says Eslam.

Getting better and better

Divers use air tanks with 21% oxygen and 79% nitrogen (the rest, other gases). It allows them to stay under water for a maximum of 25 minutes at 18 metres depth.

A specialty course taught Eslam to use the Nitrox tank containing compressed air with more oxygen(24, 26, 30 or 32%). The rest is nitrogen. Efficient divers can dive 40 metres deep with it and stay under water for over an hour.

Eslam instructs a student

Eslam also did the rescue and the Emergency First Response (EFR) speciality courses completing them in 2010. By 2012, he became a Dive Master, a PADI instructor and an EFR Instructor,his entire training done at Al Boom Diving in Jumeirah Health Club Resort and Spa.

He saved Ali in 2013 with the courage to stay calm. Today, Eslam is a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer AND a diving instructor who freelances at Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi, Atlantis Dubai and Al Boom Diving in Jumeirah organising diving trips, conducting diving courses for tourists and accompanying

diving trips.

Wish fulfilled.

What Ali did not know: Eslam's diving certificiations

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