The fiancée and friends of an experienced Canadian scuba diver who was paralyzed in a diving accident in Ireland in August are looking to raise funds to fly him home.
On Aug. 8, James “Kim” Martin, 56, from Baysville, Ont., got into difficulties during the decompression ascent at the end of a dive at the RMS Lusitania shipwreck off the south coast of Ireland.
Martin was airlifted to a hospital in Galway, 200 kilometres from the dive site, where he could receive treatment in a hyperbaric chamber.
Seven weeks later, he is conscious but is still on life support with a serious spinal cord injury.
His fiancée Kirstin Chadwick flew to Ireland immediately after the accident, where medical staff told her they didn’t expect Martin to survive.
“They brought me in to see him and I was only there for a few moments and he couldn’t hear me,” said Chadwick, speaking to Global News from the hospital in Ireland.
“He was not responsive, but I just remember telling him I love him.”
WATCH (Sept. 14, 2019): Okanagan brothers given medals of bravery for saving four people at risk of drowning in 2013
Chadwick says the past seven weeks have seen many highs and lows.
“He is definitely making improvements. However, the hyperbaric chambers were not able to make many improvements to the spinal cord injury itself,” said Chadwick.
“He seems to have the same effects now as he did when he was first admitted, which is (a) life-altering spinal cord injury.”
The final extent of Martin’s paralysis is still uncertain.
Martin didn’t have adequate insurance and Chadwick is hoping to raise enough funds to get Martin home to Canada.
The air ambulance journey home could cost up to $90,000.
Pat Shannon, one of the Canadian divers who was on the dive with Martin, has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for the trip, and for other medical costs.
Shannon says Martin is a very experienced diver, and he’s still unsure exactly what happened on Aug. 8.
“When I finally reached surface after my full decompression, I surfaced to see our boat with a Coast Guard boat attached to it,” said Shannon.
“As soon as I hit the top of the elevator, I looked to my left. I saw Kim was on oxygen, with his suit cut off, receiving medical attention from the Coast Guard.”
Shannon said he feared the worst, given the 100-metre depth of the dive.
“We made our way the next day to Galway, but we didn’t expect him to make it through the night,” said Shannon.
“And then when we finally arrived, he made it through the first night, but then through the day, the prognosis was looking very grim when we left the second day, and we didn’t expect him to make through the second day at all.”
Shannon describes Martin as one of the most experienced cave divers in Canada.
In 1996, Martin was awarded the Canadian Medal of Bravery for helping to rescue a diver a year earlier at a cave in Tobermory, Ont.
A second chance
Martin and Chadwick had been due to get married near their home in Baysville, Ont., on Aug. 24.
Martin’s dive to the Lusitania was the last of his “bucket list” dives before their big day.
Those wedding plans are on hold, but Chadwick says, given the initial prognosis, she feels they have a second chance at a life together.
“I said to Kim on his birthday (Sept. 23), we’re luckier than any person in this whole hospital, or any person in the whole world, because not very many people get a chance to start again,” said Chadwick.
“I got him a bucket for his birthday. The Lusitania was the end of his bucket list, and I filled it with a bunch of new bucket list items. We love Cheetos. One of them was we’re gonna go to the Frito-Lay factory.”
Chadwick says she has been overwhelmed by the support she’s received in Ireland.
“An older woman (came) to the hospital to give me 100 euros ($145), because she couldn’t make a donation on the GoFundMe page. And I just told her I will never forget you,” said Chadwick.
“I hope that Canada will also rally, and really get us behind us to bring Kim home. He has the Medal of Bravery and is a hero and he deserves to come home and feel that love and support from Canada as well.”
Donations for Kim Martin’s medical costs can be made via the GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/f/1q4lrz0vxc
READ MORE: Coast to coast: Scuba diving in Canada