One local man ultimately came to know God through a tragic accident while free-diving in Nicaragua.
In Nicaragua, seafood is the second most important national export after coffee. Lobster diving is a major business there, and many of the best hunting spots are concentrated in the Autonomous Regions of the Atlantic Coast.
Free-diving is a traditional activity of the Miskito indigenous communities in Nicaragua. In fact, according to studies, it is estimated that 98 percent of lobster free divers in this region are also members of the Miskito. It’s common, in villages here, for the man of the house to go out in search of the “daily lobster” so he can provide for his family.
Poverty stalks many of the locals, so while there are known dangers to free-diving and lobster hunting, many push these concerns aside because the way of life is traditional and because of the need for income.
Don Sergio was one such man, combing the ocean for these spiny treasures that would ensure his family would have food on the table for another day.
Describing the often dangerous lifestyle, he summed it up by saying, “When you submerge into the deep waters, you must be aware that it could be the last time. But, in the end, you must do it because it is the only form of sustenance that you know.”
Going Down Into the Deep
Sergio was picked as part of crew, and they headed out into deep waters to hunt the lobsters. Depending on the day, he might dive anywhere between 10 and 15 times, sometimes up to depths of 150 feet. What precious little scuba gear he used probably saw its heyday in the early ‘90s, if he was lucky.
One day, after several trips, he began to feel sick. A full day of free-diving always left divers feeling wrung out, especially if they ended up in an area where they had to fight a current; but today felt different. His body hurt. Worried, he headed in because the pain was becoming bad fast. He had a feeling that, like many lobster divers after a long day, he was developing “the bends” or decompression illness.
He was taken to land where he was admitted to a hospital. He was suffering with a serious case of decompression sickness, which can occur when nitrogen bubbles form in the blood as a diver goes from the high-pressure deep up to the surface.
Most of the time, decompression sickness is painful but not too serious if it can be treated quickly with a decompression chamber. Doctors quickly moved Sergio into the chamber and returned his body to a higher pressure to help it slowly eliminate the nitrogen from his bloodstream. However, none of them could know that serious damage had already been done to Sergio’s body.
The primary cause of pain with decompression sickness is from the nitrogen bubbles pressing on nerves. In some cases, that pressure can cause necrosis, permanent damage that is not always immediately apparent.
The hospital sent Sergio home, unaware that his spinal cord had sustained discrete injuries. He gradually began losing mobility in his legs until one day he woke up and could not get up from his bed.
SUBHEAD: Rebuilding on a New Foundation
World Challenge’s partners in the area heard about Sergio’s situation. His injury had caused a buzz in the community because paralysis as a result of decompression sickness is relatively unusual.
They met with Sergio and his family to see what they could do to help. His children now visit the food center for meals to help relieve some of the weight on the family as they grapple with this new situation. The team was also able to provide him with a wheelchair so he can move around more freely.
While they were working with the family, message of salvation was preached to them, and Sergio accepted Jesus as his Savior.
He thanks God that he has not been forsaken. Despite not having much income now, he has not lacked bread on his table. “I never expected this to happen to me. I thought my body was stronger and my lungs were more resistant. But it was my turn, and I have nothing left but to wait on God and know that he will take care of me and my family.”
He’d initially gone into a deep depression after the accident, feeling hopeless about his situation and future. Now, with the hope of Christ and knowing God still has a purpose for him, Sergio has managed to overcome the emotional struggle of having lost the use of his legs.
These days, he is growing stronger in the faith, often gathering with friends and family with the use of his wheelchair. He is also in a search of new work options to continue bringing bread to his family's table.
The experience of meeting God, the knowledge that he does not abandon his children has given Sergio new strength.