A young British woman was left paralysed from the waist down after suffering the bends on a scuba diving trip in Indonesia.
Amy Stone, 28, suffered permanent spinal damage from the nitrogen in her blood after a series of dives at a five-star resort.
She then spent three weeks in a decompression chamber when she should have been enjoying a six-month gap-year trip with her boyfriend.
The former marathon runner is now suing the resort for £50,000 in damages, claiming the instructors failed to notice she had the tell-tale signs of the bends.
She has been left with little feeling below the waist and – despite learning to walk again – is not able to run.
Amy Stone has been left with little feeling below her waist after suffering the bends during a diving trip in Indonesia
Ms Stone pictured with boyfriend Richard on another dive before she suffered the bends
Amy, from Leatherhead, Surrey, said: ‘It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime but it very nearly cost me my life.
‘I’ve had no apology from the instructors. They didn’t help me at all and could have cost me my life. They should have spotted the signs and got me to hospital.
‘I’m pleased with my progress and glad to be walking again but I’ll never be able to run which is one of my main passions or enjoy simple pleasures like sitting in a hot bath as I can’t feel the water.’
Amy, then 26, was four months into her round-the-world trip when she booked a five-day stay at the prestigious PADI 5-star Oceans Five Dive Resort in April 2015.
On the third day she surfaced from a dive temporarily blind and disorientated with what felt like ‘the worst migraine imaginable’.
She had to be ‘dragged’ from the water onto the support boat and given oxygen.
But Amy claims the instructors told her the 10m dive ‘was not deep enough’ to experience decompression illness.
She was left temporarily blind and disorientated after the dive before becoming temporarily paralysed. She has since learned to walk again, but still has problems with movement
She says failures by diving instructors in the luxury resort could have cost her her life
Instead of taking her to hospital, she claims staff gave her the all clear to dive again two days later.
And when she surfaced the symptoms recurred – but this time her arm was twisted and temporarily paralysed.
What is the bends?
The condition known as the bends is caused when nitrogen absorbed from breathing compressed air remains in the body and can be suffered at any time by even experienced divers who are taking precautions to resurface early.
When the pressure around the diver decreases on ascent the nitrogen starts coming out of the tissues back into the blood stream, but in rare cases forms bubbles.
These can block arteries causing paralysis, strokes and heart attacks.
Although sensation in her arm returned, she soon lost feeling in her legs but claims resort staff said she had simply ‘overexerted’ herself and told her not to go to hospital.
After six hours of paralysis she and Richard decided to leave for the hospital.
A boat took her to Lombok and they caught a taxi to Harapan Keluarga Hospital where she was diagnosed with decompression illness.
She had to be taken to a port which was a further 45-minute drive from the hospital to be treated in a decompression chamber for seven hours.
‘To make the nightmare even worse it had a music system – but they only had Whitney Houston songs and Backstreet Boyz,’ she said.
‘So there I was, paralysed from the waist down thinking I will never walk again, trapped inside a claustrophobic coffin which gave me regular panic attacks listening to terribly depressing songs on repeat.
‘All I had was a little bubble-shaped window through which I could see Richard on the other side.’
She is still struggling despite two years of treatment, including in a decompression chamber
He now suffers pain from nerve damage and is sometime unsteady on her feet, she says
She was repatriated thanks to her insurance and had a further month’s decompression treatment at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester.
But after more than two years of treatment, she has not regained any feeling in her legs and suffers from severe muscle fatigue and pain.
As a former long distance runner who completed the 2014 Brighton marathon, Amy was determined to walk again and spent many painstaking hours practising small steps with the aid of a cane.
She is now able to walk without assistance but has a limp and falls over easily. She needs intensive neuro-physiotherapy to keep her mobile.
Amy is also tormented by permanent nerve damage in her bladder which is now over-reactive and doesn’t empty properly.
The former marathon runner is now suing the resort she visited for £50,000 in damages
Ms Stone, pictured with her boyfriend Richard, says staff should have spotted the signs
This means she wets herself often and has to pre-empt going to the toilet.
Amy, who has to use a catheter several times a day to empty her bladder fully, said: ‘I have no control over my bladder and this impacts my life the most.
‘I need to go to the toilet every 30 minutes which has left me in embarrassing situations at work or while out with friends.
‘It’s over-reactive and I often don’t notice that I’m urinating.’
In response to Amy’s claims, Oceans Five said: ‘Since this case is still ongoing we cannot make any comments at this time.
‘Our side of the story is very different from Amy’s description of events but due to the ongoing case we cannot comment at this time.
‘This matter has been submitted to our lawyer in Indonesia and Amy’s lawyer.’