Lee Jeffs, Unsplash

Hyperbaric, Easter, & Pools: Diving & Fishing into Deep Waters

09:00 March 24, 2021
By: Keith John Paul Horcasitas

As we get closer to Holy Week, and culminating with Easter, I'm about to take a dive into something deep, which plunges me into some below sea level memories from work, my swimming pool, and to resurrection reflections.

Some of my former hospital patients took dives three times a week. Most of them had diabetes, kidney disease, circulation, and wound healing problems. Many of them also made other mandatory trips three times a week. Usually, they would depend upon family and/or public transportation to and from the hospital. Their only day off was the Lord's Day, Sunday, and I would pray with them many times, if they requested, for their health and many other needs that I would become aware of.

Scuba divers paved the way for them—from when the former had needed treatment for the bends.

Keith Van Meter, MD, really dove into wound healing and was a pioneer in hyperbaric therapy based upon treatment for the bends. He helped save so many of my patients' limbs, which otherwise would have been amputated—almost like Lazarus in a recent Lenten Gospel account (John 11: 1 - 45), these folks sometimes told me they felt like they were being "brought back to life!"

Dr. Van Meter also had a big heart and would give so much slack to non-compliant patients, and would have given the scrubs off his back to help them!

Jo Ellen Smith was a small hospital in New Orleans, the first one I worked at as social services director from 1988 to 1991, where I was blessed to work with Dr. Van Meter. The hospital was named for a great nurse who was unfortunately killed during her generous outreach work to a needy area. Every day I went to work, I would see her picture by the elevators, and she inspired many of us to emulate our own "Florence Nightingale" hero!

I would also transfer many of these successful hyperbaric patients to inpatient or outpatient rehab services at another now-closed hospital affiliated with Jo Ellen in Algiers, named for U.S. Rep. F. Edward Hebert, who had represented the New Orleans-based 1st Congressional District from 1941 to 1977.

Fast forward to some recent swimming pool experiences—it has been hard lately not to enjoy the cool and refreshing invigoration of my in-ground pool anymore after 16 years—especially after cutting the grass! We converted our pool into a bigger garden, where my better-half grows some veggies and flowers with the blessing and hope given by spring! That was a big job, but I had some expert help from a choir friend to "jackhammer our way" through the work!

Back in 2017, right after Easter Sunday, Rudy Mann, a former fellow St. Francis of Xavier Catholic Church Men's Choir member and all round handy-dandy fix-it dude, helped me to take out our pool liner, open the cemented bottom of the pool, and then fill it in with dirt to make a pool garden.

Sure, I missed the dives at home (I actually was about to cut down the diving board when we first moved here for liability reasons, but was glad I didn't as it made for a great rule to all swimmers NOT to dive anywhere into the pool but off the diving board into our 9 ½ foot deep section of the pool), but that was nothing compared to the dives I took with patients back in the late 80s at Jo Ellen Smith.

Back to my resurrection encounters with patients—I would sometimes visit my hospital patients in those hyperbaric tanks, carefully putting covers on my shoes and observing other protocols needed. These patients would many times be going three times a week for dialysis and three times a week for hyperbaric dives—talk about a commitment to one's care!

I learned so much about faith, perseverance, and trust from these humble folks that it almost brings me to tears now when I recall some of their stories—many of whom loved to fish like me and we shared so many great catch accounts.

This all ties in so well with what JC demonstrated in John 21. The Apostles were "re-treating" to fishing, in order to cope with the Crucifixion, and were treated to a "happy meal" by Jesus after getting a bountiful fishing catch. And Peter (and all of us) was/were also forgiven for having denied Jesus three times when asked about whether he (we) loved Jesus or not!

So as we come into Holy Week, let's all learn from those hyperbaric treated folks that whenever we are about to dive into something, it sure helps to be reminded of one of my favorite quotes, based upon John 21:6, from the late St. Pope John Paul II: "Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch."

You never know what blessings will come through what we dive into, as was noted by Stephen Curtis Chapman in his song, "Dive!"

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