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For those of you who heard about an incident at Stoney Cove in November, you may also have heard of the guy involved - Dr Paul Thomas. He's a familiar sight on both the BSAC boards and UKRS. Anyway, heres an extract from the East Anglian Daily Times (Dec 18th 2002):

"A DOCTOR who almost died in a freak diving accident has spoken of his joy to be alive.

Dr Paul Thomas was not expected to recover from the near-drowning incident at a Leicestershire quarry last month.

The 50-year-old GP from Claydon, near Ipswich, was without oxygen for around 10 minutes and spent nearly three weeks in a coma, following the routine dive at the popular Stoney Cove Diving Centre. He was left with acute lung injury and kidney failure but miraculously escaped brain damage.

Speaking from his bed at the Suffolk Nuffield Hospital in Ipswich, he said: “If you'd have asked me prior to this what the chances were of a man surviving a three week coma in intensive care and coming out without brain damage or coming out at all, I would have said next to none. I am very, very lucky to be alive.

“A few weeks ago I wasn't expected to survive. Now I'm champing at the bit to go home.”

Under normal circumstances, he said he it was very likely he would have suffered acute brain damage from oxygen starvation. He believes the high-oxygen mix he had been using, together with the icy water, had protected him.

Doctors were keeping a close eye on him to check for signs of minor damage but had so far found none, he added.

He vowed never to go diving again, joking that stamp-collecting may be a safer past time.

“My life and medical career nearly came to an end - my diving career has ended,” he said adding that as he could not explain what had happened to him, he could not be sure it would not happen again.

Dr Thomas, who had been diving with a “buddy” from Norfolk, remembers very little of his ordeal, which happened in around 20m of water at an unchallenging site in the lake between a submerged helicopter and a tug.

He said: “We were doing some training dives and the second time we went down something happened but I've no idea what. I had to be recovered by a rescue team.

“I don't understand it. I'm a fairly highly qualified diver and I'm used to doing very deep, long decompression dives in wrecks. This was such a basic dive of the kind you might do in a swimming pool. We were just going through drills. I suppose it was just one of those things, like going out of the front door and being hit by a car.”

Dr Thomas was brought to the surface and given mouth to mouth resuscitation. Emergency services also tried to revive him.

He was admitted immediately to the intensive care unit at Leicester Royal Infirmary, where he spent several days on a ventilator. From there, he underwent kidney dialysis at Leicester General Hospital before being transferred to Ipswich.

He was extremely grateful to all the medical staff who had, he said, “rescued him from the jaws of death”.

Although he has lost weight and is still very tired he is looking forward to going home today , just in time for Christmas.

He plans to take at least a month off work to recuperate but then hopes to be back in the reins at the Gipping Valley Practice in Barham. During his absence, the single-doctor surgery has been run by locum GPs. He is also looking forward to seeing the completion of a new surgery building - the plans were put on hold whilst his future looked uncertain.

Dr Thomas, who had always been considered something of a maverick by colleagues for his outspoken opinions, was philosophical about his brush with death.

He said: “I will have to take stock of what has happened. I'm now being given a second chance. I'm going to have to take some time to reflect on life. As my wife Angela is always telling me, it isn't a dress rehearsal.

“I am really very sorry to have put my wife and family through #### over the past month. It was touch and go for a long time. I think they had written me off. I don't deserve to be alive. It's a miracle and a nice Christmas present for my family.”

Dr Thomas' sister Trudy, who manages the Norfolk Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Trust and lives in Swaffham, said: “I am just very pleased to have my brother back. We did think the worst, things looked very bleak for about 10 days. From such a dire prognosis to get back to normal is little more than a miracle. It looks as though his action man days are over though.”

Dr Gareth Richards, clinical director of primary care at the Central Suffolk Primary Care Trust, said: “We're obviously very happy to see Dr Thomas back again. We need to make sure he is physically and mentally fit to return to work. In the mean time his patients are being looked after by a substitute doctor.”

Dr Thomas only took up diving again four years ago, after a long break, whilst on holiday with his wife in Cornwall. Before then, his hobby was parachuting. He served as medical officer for a London parachute regiment for many years after finishing at Edinburgh University."

Relatively good ending to what could have been another tragic accident. If nothing else, it shows that shit can and does happen.

Dive safe all!
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