By: Matt Pruett March 21, 2012
World-renowned underwater cinematographer Mike Prickett -- known for his spellbinding work on such award-winning documentaries as Riding Giants and Step Into Liquid -- is currently suffering from severe decompression sickness, aka "the bends" or "diver's disease", while shooting a commercial video in Rangiora, Tahiti last Wednesday.
Sources say the 47-year-old Hawaiian was sharing air with another diver, drained the tank, and had no choice but go straight to the surface without decompressing. At press time, Mike was undergoing hyperbaric oxygen therapy in a Papeete hospital.
"I was doing an underwater shoot for wetsuits and dive gear," Prickett told Honolulu-based KITV News. "I saw another diver sinking and panicking. I dove down to 220 feet to save him, but he used up all my air. I'm glad I was able to rescue him and he could walk away from the incident. I want to thank my family and friends for their prayers."
Unfortunately, the bends left Prickett paralyzed from the chest down. And though he has since regained some sensation in his legs, his condition is still serious. Surfline received an update from Tahiti-based photographer and Teahupo'o fixture Tim McKenna after he had returned from the hospital.
"I saw another diver sinking and panicking. I dove down to 220 feet to save him, but he used up all my air."
-- Mike Prickett
"Mike still has still has to do decompression chamber sessions until next Saturday," reported Tim. "Forty-eight hours after the last session he can fly back to see a specialist, either in Australia or San Diego. He's in pain and his spirits are pretty low. He still can't feel his lower body."
The best news in all this may actually come from Prickett's past: An automobile accident back in 1984 shattered Mike's right leg in 36 places and his left leg in seven. Doctors feared he'd never walk again and suggested swimming as physical therapy. All that rehab ultimately led to an interest in underwater cinematography, which led to a stellar career, which led to numerous awards including "Best Cinematography" at the Sundance Film Festival. In other words, this is a very empowered, industrious man we're talking about here.
Details on a fundraiser to benefit his medical expenses will be announced soon. In the meantime, please pray for Mike and his wife Marya during this very troubling time.
Via Edwin Hiu Aline