Dive Accident – A scuba diver from Dumaguete City, was confirmed dead on November 8, 2020 at 8:50 am in Silliman University Medical Center. He experienced decompression sickness after his third dive last October 28, 2020. Lacking treatment on the island, and strict pandemic this led to a stage 4 coma and eventually, death.
Deadly Diving in Dumaguete City
The scuba diver is identified as Jundril Suaring. He lives with his two sisters, Juvylou Suaring and Juannlith Suaring, with spearfishing and scuba diving as a livelihood. Even way before the pandemic, Jundril was already a spearfisher. It was about 3 years ago when he started working at Harold’s Dive Center Dumaguete. According to one of his sisters, he started working for the local dive-shop in 2016 or 2017. During the pandemic, he was temporarily unemployed. Thus, making him go back to his former livelihood as a spearfisher.
Through a Facebook post from the victim’s relative, an overview of the incident was explained.
On October 28, 2020, he and his co-spear fishers went to Santa Monica in Barangay Banilad of Dumaguete City. He rented scuba diving gears & diving tanks in the hopes of getting some income afterward. After their second dive, Jundril felt dizzy and was in pain. His companions discourage him to do the third dive. However, with no job, and a family to support, he still went for the third and last dive of the day.
According to the Facebook post, at around 30 meters deep, Jundril experienced a strong current. He panicked and pressed his inflator and went to the surface. Upon reaching the surface he lost his consciousness. His co-workers saw him and ascended carefully to help him. He was then rushed to the hospital. A few moments later, Jundril regained his consciousness and explained his point of view.
Na panic ko. Ni kusog ang solug sa lalom. Nahadlok ko maanod sa layo. Akong na pislitan. Na deretso kog saka sa taas”, he said after gaining back his conscious.
I panicked. The current got stronger at the bottom. I was afraid to be drifted away, so I pressed (the button) and I went up immediately.
In scuba diving, it is extremely dangerous to go straight up to the surface after being is depth under the sea. It is called many things such as Decompression sickness, DCS, bubbles, or the bends. This is caused by a buildup of nitrogen bubbles in the bloodstream and body tissues. With great pressure and depth, the nitrogen bubbles inside the body do not have enough time to go out. This causes fatigue, shortness of breath, and bruising or also known as decompression rash.
Pandemic and Dive Accident – Bad Timing!
Jundril was able to speak very little after reaching the hospital. After that, we fell asleep and hasn’t woken up. On October 31, 2020, the doctors announced that he was in a stage 4 coma. The only cure for decompression sickness is through a hyperbaric decompression chamber or a pressure chamber. With manipulated pressure, the nitrogen bubbles are slowly released. There is no such machine in the city nor the province. The closest operating pressure chamber available is on the next island of Cebu.
With the virus still on the rise and no vaccine available, it was difficult to transport the patient. Jundril lives with his two sisters. Their parents are already deceased. Being financially incapable of paying high and rising medical bills, they reached out to people for help.
Why is there no Decompression Chamber in Dumaguete City?
Back in 2006, a few people from Bohol came to Negros Oriental to visit the province in the hopes of coming up with a common tourism program. It was later revealed that the provincial government, run back then by former Governor George Arnaiz, had invested in a recompression chamber for diving accidents. It was to support the tourism industry, especially in scuba diving. According to Myla Abellana, the pressure chamber was acquired in 2006 but lacked the necessary component-parts to fully operate.
In the year 2012, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Council in Negros Oriental has approved to allocate an amount of 3 million pesos to restore and rehabilitate the hyperbaric decompression chamber in the province. During a PDRRMC meeting, Provincial Tourism Office Myla Abellana said that there was a need to rehabilitate the hyperbaric chamber which was initially supposed to be used as a life-saving tool to treat deep-sea diving-related illnesses such as the DCS. However, there are also plenty of non-diving related conditions which can be treated in a hyperbaric chamber.
The three-million-peso fund was supposed to be used to purchase the hyperbaric chamber accessories such as the compressor, oxygen concentrator, and the training of medical staff to operate the chamber. With two governors passing during those years from 2006, the hyperbaric chamber was swept to the rug and was never heard of since.
Dr. Jose Bernardo, the Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving Commissioner in 2016, discussed the importance of hyperbaric medicine to diving and tourism as one of the most promising modern medical developments.
Meanwhile, Dr. Michael Perez also said that the use of hyperbaric medicine in tourism not only for diving problems but can treat medical emergencies including decompression illness, carbon monoxide poisoning, and soft tissue infections such as necrotizing fasciitis and gas gangrene. Dr. Perez said the non-healing and problem wounds such as diabetic foot ulcers and healing issues in cancer patients who have undergone radiotherapy can also be treated with the use of the decompression chamber.
The question remains: Where is the working decompression chamber in Dumaguete City ?
There is no question, that the dive profile of the young man was far beyond any responsible dive-practice. Him alone is responsible for the dive accident with diving this way, ignoring all red flags and warnings signs. However, this kind of accident does not mean death. Proper treatment may lead partial or in most cases to full recovery. A working decompression chamber in Dumaguete may not have saved the young diver, but at least he would have had a chance.
With the pandemic restrictions, his very own mistakes regarding safe diving-procedures and the lack of a hyperbaric chamber in the city, Jundril Suaring died in Silliman University Medical Hospital in the morning of November 8th, 2020. His two loving sisters, his friends, and the diving community worldwide grieving about the loss.
Photos taken from Juvylou Suaring‘s Facebook profile.