A hero diver on life support in an Irish hospital following an underwater accident was due to marry his partner on his return to Canada.
Elite diver James “Kim” Martin, from Baysville, Ont., is in intensive care at University Hospital Galway after he was paralyzed following a dive on Aug. 8 to the wreck of the RMS Lusitania, an ocean liner sunk in 1915 by a German U-boat off the southern coast of Ireland.
Martin was accompanied by two other Canadian divers and five from the U.S.
“During the decompression portion of the dive an unexpected incident occurred and one of the divers, Kim Martin, surfaced without completing his decompression stops,” wrote fellow Canadian driver Pat Shannon on a GoFundMe page.
“Kim was treated at the surface then whisked off by helicopter to the nearest hyperbaric chamber in order to save his life.”
After receiving medical treatment near the wreck, off the coast of County Cork, Martin was rushed to UHG where he has regained consciousness.
Martin did not have health insurance, so the fundraising page is aiming to raise $100,000 so he can be transported by air ambulance back to Canada for rehabilitation for his life altering spinal cord injury.
His Canadian fiancé Kirstin Chadwick flew to Ireland as soon as she heard the bad news and has been by his bedside for two months. She was told by a doctor before she left Canada that he was unlikely to survive, according to the Irish Times.
“He has a bit of a long road ahead,” Chadwick told CTVNews.ca on the phone from Galway.
“He’s definitely in good spirits since the news got out, knowing that people are behind him.
“It’s unclear how much power he’ll get back, but we’re definitely working towards feeling and sensation.”
Martin has limited use of his upper body. He is able to nod his head, mouth words and speak with the aid of a valve in his throat, Chadwick explained.
“It’s audible, but tiring for him to speak,” she said.
It appears Martin came up too fast from the deep dive and was not weighted correctly, Chadwick told Ireland’s national broadcaster RTE.
She called financial support received via the GoFundMe page, already at $84,500, as “remarkable.”
Chadwick celebrated Martin’s 56th birthday in his hospital ward last week. The pair, who have been together for two-and-a half years, were due to be married on Aug. 24 in a small ceremony for family and friends in Muskoka, Ont.
“It was really a surprise ceremony; we were planning a surprise location with his family,” Chadwick told CTVNews.ca.
She explained that Martin, vice president of a U.S. conveyor-belt company, was an elite diver with 30 years’ experience, having previously mapped tectonic plates for the government of Iceland.
He has done extensive underwater cave exploring in Canada and was among the first divers to visit all the main cruise liner wreckages, Chadwick said.
“Kim was awarded the Canadian Medal of Bravery on September 20, 1996 for the rescue of a fellow diver,” Shannon wrote on the GoFundMe page.
“On August 6, 1995, Kim helped in the rescue of a lost diver in Tobermory, Ontario. The man had become separated from his partner and was believed to be dead after many hours trapped in a submerged cave.”
The Lusitania was the last of the big dives on Martin’s bucket list.
“We tell this story to paint a picture of a man who is in the battle of his life, for his life,” Shannon wrote.
“We ask you to please show Kim the same selfless act of kindness he once showed a fellow diver in need. Please rally behind us by making a donation to help battle the escalating costs associated with Kim’s recovery.”
Chadwick, who is staying in a bed-and-breakfast in Galway close to the hospital, thanked the Irish people, adding she would be “forever in their debt.”