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Life with the bends

Matilda Simmons
Thursday, February 15, 2018

IT'S been 22 years since the fateful day when Emosi Leucu suffered a tragic accident which to this day affects his daily life.

We met the Yaqaga villager in Bua as he limped from his house to greet us.

The 42-year-old said he suffered extensive paralysis to his body when he got the bends while diving out at sea in 1996.

"It was painful," he described. "I was out diving for beche-de-mer which I was hoping to sell to build my parents' home.

"I really wanted to finish the house so I was out diving almost every day."

Unfortunately in his haste to come up to the surface, the villager felt a burning sensation in his chest.

"I was at over 110 feet under water and I stayed too long there. When I came up, I felt weak and I couldn't breathe. With every lunge I took, I felt deep pain in my body and I slowly went into shock," he said slowly shaking his head as he looked back to that fateful day.

"I lost consciousness after that.

"The diver's bends (or depression sickness) is a very bad thing to have, we have to be careful when using scuba gear."

Emosi ended up in a coma and it took him months to recover after that.

"I had to learn how to walk, talk and move my body around," he said quietly.

"But I was determined to live. It took every effort as I began to recuperate. My parents were there for me throughout. I'm just glad that I'm still alive and walking again."

Today he looks after his livestock and has since gotten married.

"On this island (Yaqaga), the main source of living is fishing or diving for beche-de-mer," Emosi said.

"This island is isolated and we have to find whatever means to make a living.

"Some of the fishermen are disappointed over the ban on the use of scuba dive gear which Government enacted but personally I think it's good.

"There are many young men in these coastal parts who are still reeling from the effects of the decompression sickness and we should look at other alternatives to supplement our income," Emosi said.

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