Facial baroparesis, baroparesis facialis, alternobaric facial palsy and me...

Please register or login

Welcome to ScubaBoard, the world's largest scuba diving community. Registration is not required to read the forums, but we encourage you to join. Joining has its benefits and enables you to participate in the discussions.

Benefits of registering include

  • Ability to post and comment on topics and discussions.
  • A Free photo gallery to share your dive photos with the world.
  • You can make this box go away

Joining is quick and easy. Log in or Register now!

Mike Campbell

Scuba Instructor
Reaction score
Coastal North Carolina
This is simply my story and what I did wrong and would have done differently if I knew then what I know now. Hopefully it might help someone.

At East Carolina University we have a substantial recreational diving student population. At the end of each semester for their final two dives we take them off the NC coast. On the last day of essentially two weeks of diving I had placed myself at the anchor line to count heads as students ascended. We were on the wreck of the Parker, a liberty ship sunk as an artificial reef in 1974, and were tied in on a bollard at about 25-30 feet. The shallow depth of the tie in had placed the "Carolina rig" down line system relatively close to me.

As a student swam toward me I noticed that the students bc was slightly inflated and gave them the sign to dump the air. Unfortunately instead of dumping the air the student hit the wrong button and inflated the bc to the point of starting a buoyant ascent. I arrested the ascent almost immediately but in doing so had reached for what I thought was a weighted line to keep me stationary and instead got an unsecured line. In pulling the student down, I went up several feet. The student quickly figured out the problem and corrected and continued on up the anchor line.

I knew almost immediately that something was not right. It was the end dive of the semester and I was and had been mildly congested for several days. We all know instructors do a lot of up and downing so I won't belabor that point. I did a quick self check and other than a beginning pain in my right ear I seemed ok. We finished the diving and headed back in. On the way in the pain continued to increase and my face started to tingle. Mistake 1. I denied I had an issue, never mentioned it to the crew who were all friends and would have started medical intervention had I said something. By the time I drove to my house 10 minutes away the ear pain had become almost emergent and I was considering heading to the ER. I didn't. Mistake 2. Instead I drove home took some ibuprofen and lay down on the couch dropping off to sleep when the pain eased off. When I woke up the pain had returned and the entire right side of my face was essentially paralyzed. Blinking my right eye closed it about half way, and I was unable to make a grimace type face. Mistake 3, I knew that on occasion people suffered transient paralysis from flying and figured I could look that up and see how to self medicate. We all know how that turned out.

Next day, bright and early I went to the local "doc in a box" which I'll label as Mistake 4. Even though I explained that the issue had occurred while diving it fell on deaf ears and I was diagnosed with an ear infection and Bell's Palsy. That began about a week of going back and forth to a number of medical facilities including a visit to an ENT who ridiculed me for suggesting it was dive related, in almost constant pain and drooling. So, you know, add mistakes 5 through 10 more or less.

Eventually found my way to the University hospital where I underwent every test in the book and a couple MRI and CTs. I also called Duke and DAN. I actually began doing something right. The long and short of the scans was that my 7th cranial nerve blurred for a very short time and then returned. Three years later I have residual paralysis and nerve damage although my eye does shut. I still have a strange grin and on occasion my facial nerves go on a walkabout.

I'm retired and employed at a University so I had time to do anecdotal research into what I had understood was a rare malady. It appears perhaps not as rare as thought. In almost every case, again, anecdotally the victim has the same symptoms as me (primarily and remember this, extreme ear pain) and had an initial diagnois of Bell's. IF the victim waited over 6 hours for medical intervention (which they all did) each had residual paralysis.

So if this happens to you I suggest immediately call Duke and Dan and let them advise you as most doctors are not inclined to listen to your dive stories. DAN also paid substantially on my medical bills. If you are foolish like me and have an initial diagnosis of nondive related issues then your claim for workman's comp will likely be refused.

If you want further info or would like to tell me of a similar event or listen to me ramble on about mine, feel free to mail me.
Thanks. That’s s really well written informative and useful report.

Top Bottom