*This blog entry is the first one and has been edited from my original status update on FaceBook about midnite December 10, 2014
Lindsey McFadden passed away on Monday December 8 at ~10:45am here in my arms in Cozumel, Mexico.
Funeral arraignments are underway and we will have final details for the hundreds of people who loved her.
Monday morning we were picked up by my friend and mentor, Dive Master Instructor and personally taken along with a young Colombian woman diver to the marina where we got on the boat around 9:30am. We made the short trip from the south of the island of Cozumel by boat to Santa Rosa Reef. We had been diving many times the previous week but had taken the weekend off to enjoy other adventures.
We dropped into the water at around 10:05am into mostly calm seas and light breeze, a bright partly cloudy sky above us and into the deep blue ocean below. With kisses before we dropped in on opposite sides of the boat, I descended to 8 feet to have her join me there. After taking a few seconds to adjust her gear, she waved to me with her free arm as she deflated her vest with the other hand. A beautiful smile was on her face. I was 20 feet ahead of her on my way to the bottom so i could make a video of her approach to me.
The Santa Rosa Reef is one of the wonders of the sea and Lindsey held a small square plastic placard with colorful drawings of the fish and life we might encounter on our dives in this part of the ocean. She was already holding it in front of her as we immediately began to see hundreds of amazingly beautiful fish.
Jorge, our dive master for this dive and Lindsey’s instructor while getting her Open Water Diver Certification, was also was my instructor back when I got my open water certification in 1999.
Jorge is one of the most capable divers in the world and is a valued resource for this island and has few peers with his level of competency.
The sand was almost blindingly white, the water was warm and the currents light. Lindsey was having a blast with her picture card while I made a close up video a few feet away of the biggest pair of Angel Fish I had ever seen. In a minute or so, we started toward the reef and edge of the wall. Jackson Pollack cannot hold a candle to the abstractions of the color, and texture of the coral. It is magnificent and breathtaking.
Visibility of the reef and the wall was perfect and nearly endless. Another boat of divers dumped in as we begin our journey up and over the coral surrounded by fish and the ripple of light as we are passing thru towers of coral.
I videotaped many her many separate times as Jorge provided instruction and guidance to the two ladies from our boat while I brought up the rear.
Without a doubt a perfect Cozumel wall coral dive, totally typical of Cozumel and all her magic. Jorge and I were both wearing dive computers to track the dive and inform us of our depth, time at depth, maximum depth, water temperature and so on.
The dive was fairly shallow, in perfectly clear blue seas, and at no time did we ever come close to any of the limitations of our comfort, training and safety. I will know more when I download the data profile of the entire dive when I get home.
At the 35 minute mark, Jorge informed me that his student was at the agreed maximum for her dive profile and gave me the signal to ascend to 15 feet for what we divers call the “safety stop”. This ascent is a relaxing one as everybody takes these moments of slow relaxation to just enjoy the view.
Lindsey, myself, and divers from our boat are comfortably drifting in the currents near the surface, in a river of ocean, moving between the mainland and the island of Cozumel.
The safety stop in recreational diving is just that. It is safe way to get rid of excess nitrogen that has built up in your blood stream while at depth. The depths encountered in recreational diving are rarely deep enough to require a decompression stop, as was the case with our dive. In this kind of diving you can usually make a controlled ascent directly to the surface at any time without risk. We do it for an extra measure of safety, and I love this time of the dive.
I was there with Lindsey and we were each holding pieces of gear in one hand to see time and tank pressure and the other free to hold on to a strap of each others vest, or like we did, hold hands occasionally. We had over 1100psi in our tanks, enough air for over 40 minutes at 40 feet.
Divers are taught from day one we are the captain of our little sustainable universe. We all know how long its been since we looked at our readings. At around the 4-minute mark of the stop, which typically is a 5-minute one, Lindsey unexpectedly began ascending toward the surface. We were at around 8 feet at this point since the stop was almost complete and the currents were moving us slowly upward. I look at Jorge to inform him that I was heading up and he basically with hand signals said “Let’s Go Up Everybody”.
I was alarmed that Lindsey made the decision to surface and was literally 2 feet behind her. She was a naturally gifted diver and she knew she was in trouble and was attempting saving her own life.
At the surface she spit out her regulator and immediately I grabbed the hose to inflate her BCD (vest) as she was about to plunge into an oncoming wave. I struggle to grab the hose, but I tilted her back and Jorge was there filling the vest. She never took in salt water at the surface. This whole paragraph took less than 10 seconds. We ask her what’s going on? What’s wrong? Her last words were “ I feel sick”. The boat was already there when she said this, and she became unconscious within seconds of saying she felt sick.
I believe she had passed away just seconds after she said she felt sick. Someday here in this blog I will further detail all of the heroic attempts to revive her.
I have a picture of Jorge, the girl student and Lindsey all embracing, all smiling at the entrance to a cave of fantastic wonder all kneeling and happy together. I wish I were in the picture but alas I am a photographer I am use to being left out of a group photograph . The image was taken just a few minutes before her passing.
Initially we thought the cause was a condition called Immersion Pulmonary Edema, possible brought on by cardiac arrest or other triggers but in rare cases for unknown reasons IPE can occur and it can and does kill even if in a trauma one type center. It is a mystery.
The autopsy however revealed that Lindsey had a internal bleed in her liver, although there was no bruising at all on her abdomen or back. This bleed caused a complicated set of cascading issues and directly led to her loosing her life. Her passing could have happened the day before, a week later we just don’t know. In this way it was not unlike death from an aneurysm.
Lindsey passed from this world into what she and I believe is a Heavenly one. Christ is our anchor and our hope. Her passing was without great pain or suffering. Basically our story ended with her in my arms.
IF you knew us together I need not express here my love for her, as it was boundless, my loss is profound. The struggle to do the hundreds of necessary things needed to get Lindsey out of here and back to all of you was made possible because she always believed I could do anything.
Lindsey loved the ocean and she learned to dive. Lindsey was a truly gifted natural diver. She was so beautiful, strong, relaxed and at peace on this dive. She was Lindsey, in a new adventure.
The details of what so many people have done here to help me in Cozumel and to the dozens of people, both dear friends and dear families all I can say is thank you for your love and commitment to Lindsey and to me.
I am going to bed now. I will not be able to reply until around noon on Thursday.
I am so sorry for the shock of this news. I pray for your peace.
To you dear friends and both our families, especially to Gwen and Liz our mothers, all I can say is Lindsey and I wrote the best short story ever.