CPR keeps SCUBA Diver Alive
Bill Greenberg was not going to stop CPR. Forty minutes after his wife Hilary had been found at the bottom of the sea with her scuba breathing regulator removed during a family trip to Costa Rica, a physician who specializes in cosmetic medicine continued to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation on his unresponsive wife. When the Greenbergs went on vacation, a dive was often on the agenda.
“I sort of went into rescue mode,” Bill told CBSNews.com in his Scarsdale, N.Y., home. “If I had freaked out, who knows what the outcome would have been?”
And nearly one year after the ill-fated trip with her husband and their three boys, Hilary is on a mission to tell whoever she meets to learn CPR — because it could help save a life, just like her husband had saved hers.
“I feel like I’m a miracle because my hero is sitting next to me,” said Hilary, 49, who like her husband was a physician, trained in internal medicine, before she started working in mortality assessment for life insurance.
When the Greenbergs went on vacation, a dive was often on the agenda. Bill, 51, had been diving since he was about 15 years old, and estimates he’s been on over 100 dives. After marrying Hilary, the two went diving on their honeymoon and his wife also got hooked after immersing herself among the colorful fish, coral and eathtaking views of wildlife like eels and sharks.
Bill and Hilary Greenberg pose with their three boys during a family trip to Costa Rica on April 7, 2012. In the background are the Catalina Islands, below which Bill and Hilary would dive.
The two kept up their hobby as they started a family, and as their three boys got older, they also wanted to join in the fun. When their youngest turned 11 and was old enough to get his junior scuba certification, the Greenbergs and their two other sons, ages 13 and 15, took off for Costa Rica for family vacation on April 6, 2012.
Bill had dove in Costa Rica several times and had a good friend living in the area who would join the group, so the family figured the picturesque Catalina Islands off Guanacaste Province provided the perfect setting for the boys’ first chance to dive in open water.
On Saturday morning, the family boarded a boat together with other divers where they soon split into groups with the kids taking off for training with one instructor and Bill, Hilary and the more advanced divers in a second group with a divemaster.
Their first dive that morning went off without a hitch outside of a few small currents. Afterwards, the divers met up back on the boat to unwind before the next dive that afternoon. For the next dive, the adults would go deeper, 35-feet below the water’s surface.
“We were probably the most advanced divers in the group so it was going to be an easy dive,” said Bill.
By the time the couple would leave the water, their lives would be forever changed.
The divemaster had told the group he expected currents deep underwater, and warned them to go with the current if they got caught up in one. The group of six divers, including a divemaster, got in a single-file line where they moved along the rock formations beneath the islands: Bill was fifth in the group, Hilary sixth.
One of the last things Hilary remembers is giving Bill the OK sign following their descent. Bill explains that soon after, the divemaster warned that a strong underwater wave, or “surge” was coming. Hilary described it as feeling like terrible shoving.
“In my mind I’m thinking ‘oh my God what is this?’ recalled Hilary. “And that’s the last thing I remember.”