Suppose you are on vacation and you are on a ship in Indonesia to go diving. And after all the hustle and bustle from home, the long journey and the bad sleep, it is not surprising if you have a headache after a dive. For me as a guide, that is something that I keep an eye on with my guests. Not only because I try to organize a nice holiday for them, but mainly because a little headache can be alarming. What many divers don’t know or don’t realize is that headaches indicate too little fluid in your body. And the lack of fluid significantly increases the risk of decompression sickness, which is why it’s alarming.
This time I am in Indonesia on a fantastic ship in the area of Raja Ampat. We sailed for about 17 hours last night and today is the first day of diving of our trip. The first dive is now over and we have just had a fantastic breakfast with a view of the sea. The sun is slowly creeping higher into the sky and the sky is a radiant blue. Some of the guests are poking around their dive gear for some extra tweaks and others are getting their cameras ready for the next dive when Bridget comes up to me. Bridget and Jennifer come from the USA and have had a very long journey to sit on board with us. Every year these two besties go on a tropical diving adventure together and when I saw them coming yesterday I noticed that Jennifer was really on a stick. She was annoyed by everything, was grumpy and even though we helped her with everything, it didn’t seem enough. This morning she got off her stick and had a wonderful dive with us, I thought it must have been the long journey. But now Bridget came up to me to ask for a new buddy, because Jennifer wouldn’t be diving. “Why isn’t Jennifer diving?” I asked her friend. Bridget said she had headaches, migraines, and she has them almost every day. “Jennifer is now in her room in the dark and on medication,” she said. “Hmm, is it okay if I go see her? Or is it better to leave her alone?”
50Bridget said I was allowed to watch, but she warned me that Jennifer was in a really bad mood. And so I went down the stairs to her cabin and knocked on the door. I heard some unintelligible mumbling and asked if I could come in and that was okay. I opened the door and fell asleep into the dark room where Jennifer was in bed. She told me that she had had many headaches for 15 years and that she knew of herself that all she could do was sleep until it was over and take medication. She injected herself with a painkiller daily and normally it takes 6-12 hours before she can do anything again. She was super annoyed and wanted nothing to eat, nothing to drink and most of all to be left alone. Hmmm that’s very annoying and I asked her if she drank the recommended 3 L per day and she confirmed that and she didn’t really want any help. I explained to her that moisture alone is not enough, but that your body also needs minerals to retain it. So I wanted to give her rehydration salts dissolved in a glass of water and I knew from experience that you often feel a lot better within half an hour. When I advised her to, she didn’t decline my offer, but I think it was more out of courtesy than anything else. And so I arranged a glass of water with some salts that she drank immediately, I couldn’t do more for her at the moment and left her alone in her dark cabin.
I went upstairs to the salon to do some paperwork, grabbed a drink and checked all the check in papers before putting them away. I had been busy for maybe an hour, when suddenly Jennifer in a bikini, with a towel and sunscreen came above deck. What? She looked steely and gave me a smile as she walked up to me. What? “How are you?” “I feel fantastic and my headache has disappeared like snow in the sun. What exactly did you give me?” I showed her the salts and explained again the importance of minerals. I had given her salts from my private stash and offered her to drink a glass every day, which she gratefully accepted. What a difference, from that moment on she was the sunshine in the house, chatting, cheerful and above all making every dive. And what a nice and sociable person she was, as long as she didn’t have a headache. Well, that probably applies to all of us.
Often we wave away headaches and blame them on all kinds of things; big crowds, bad sleep, travel, you name it. But in the end it could be as simple as your body not retaining enough fluids. Maybe because you don’t drink enough or maybe because you don’t have enough minerals in your body. Whatever it is, make sure you’re fit and feeling good before diving. So you can enjoy all that beautiful underwater life just like Jennifer did with gray reef sharks, Oceanic mantas, wobbegong sharks and countless nudibranchs. And you know what’s so nice now? Jennifer is still in touch with me and she’s already praised me several times, although that’s a bit of an exaggeration for me. I’m not a miracle worker or doctor, I was just in the right place at the right time. Jennifer hasn’t had migraines since she now knows she just wasn’t getting enough salts. Isn’t it beautiful how we can help each other and sometimes a small step for one person is a life-changing moment for another.
Love life… Blow bubbles… Anke