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Diver tells of tragedy

Repeka Nasiko
Monday, February 17, 2014

PARALYSIS through the use of underwater breathing apparatus (UBA) is a stark reality for villagers of Naviti District in Yasawa.

One such victim is Aisake Vucunivavalagi, a 34-year-old Malevu villager who met his fate in 1999.

The Fiji Times met with Mr Vucunivavalagi during a recent trip to the Yasawas. The Malevu villager was sitting on the doorstep of his home when he was approached to reveal the struggles he has faced over the past 15 years.

"I came up too fast," said Mr Vucunivavalagi.

"I was on a diving trip with three others and was underwater for about 20 minutes.

"I had gone about 30 or 40 metres underwater and had a good haul that day."

He said with his sack full of beche-de-mer, he decided to resurface.

"When I was heading back to the boat, I could feel a tingling sensation in my back.

"It was then that I knew something was wrong, so I kept going and nearing the top, I blacked out."

The diver recalls being pulled onto the fishing boat and frantic hands moving his unconscious body to safety.

"When I woke up I felt a pain I had never felt in my whole life. I could not feel my legs."

He said after being airlifted to Lautoka Hospital and then to CWM Hospital, the realisation that he would not be able to walk again slowly sank in.

"It was hard. I had to come to terms with that idea but I did not want to accept it."

He said after struggling with rehabilitation, he started to walk again less than a year later.

But Mr Vucunivavalagi's silver lining did not last long. "In 2004, I slipped while coming back from planting cassava. I lost all feeling in my legs again.

"I think it was the same nerve that I had damaged during the dive. Since then I haven't been able to walk.

"We have been struggling because now my wife is the only one left to fend for the family."

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