When the Bend Breaks

When Dan dove into diving almost 20 years ago, he was blind to the pain his passion would cause. He first noticed a tingling, rash-like reaction called skin bends that can occur after a dive. Skin bends are common in divers experiencing decompression sickness and often occur before developing bends in the blood stream or spine, which can cause a severe stroke. Concerned about the changes in his body, Dan told himself he would be more careful during future dives. However, he’d have another frightening experience.

One day when ascending from a dive, Dan developed a bend in his spine leaving him unable to walk for approximately 30 minutes. “It completely put me down,” Dan said. “It was very scary and I was in lots of pain. I was completely immobilized.” Unable to use his legs and on a boat 20 miles from shore, the Coast Guard was called, and Dan was airlifted to a facility with a decompression chamber. Though he was advised not to dive, Dan again decided the ordeal was just an accident.

A Shared Passion

Dan soon had another medical issue due to diving and blew out his eardrums, resulting in vertigo. Doctors at another hospital initially told him he ascended too quickly, and he may have suffered a stroke from which he would never recover. Dissatisfied with the diagnosis, Dan decided to get a second opinion at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg where he met physicians who would get to the heart of the matter.

First, Dan was seen by Dr. Trina Espinola, an ENT who also happens to be an avid diver and in the Divers Alert Network, a group of not-for-profit organizations working to improve diving safety. When Dan learned his physician was a fellow diver, he hoped she would better understand his symptoms as well as his love for the water. To Dan’s delight, Dr. Espinola immediately recognized he ruptured his eardrums. But to his dismay, she also ran additional tests that revealed a significant cardiac issue. 


Diving Back In

Through an EKG and other cardiovascular tests, Dr. Espinola and the team at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg discovered Dan had a ventricular septal defect, an abnormal opening in the heart’s lower pumping chambers. Dan was eventually referred to Dr. Ravi Korabathina, a cardiology specialist at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg. Dr. Korabathina performed a patent foramen ovale closure (PFO closure) along with Dr. Dan Masvidal, a board-certified cardiologist also with Bayfront Health St. Petersburg. Though he was apprehensive about the procedure, Dan’s trust in his physicians gave him confidence in their care. “I’ve been through so much, I was kind of scared of the PFO closure for my kids’ sake and everything else. But I have to say after I got done with Dr. Korabathina, he put my mind at ease. He nailed it,” Dan said. Since this surgery in August 2020, Dan has made a full recovery.

Dan is in awe of the care he received from the Bayfront Health St. Petersburg team. He believes their persistence saved his future in diving. “Everybody across the board – they went above and beyond to figure out what was going on and make me feel comfortable,” Dan said of his experience with his physicians. “It was really Dr. Korabathina that gave me the confidence that everything was going to be good.” Not only did the team renew him physically, he now has a renewed outlook on the importance of taking things slow and ensuring safety first. With two teenagers looking up to him, Dan is striving to be the best father and example he can be both in and out of the water.