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Specialized ProfessionI'm Buck Taylor, professional submarine pilot. I helped take a sub 1000 meters to the ocean floor in Antarctica for Blue Planet II. Ask me anything.

Jan 28th 2018 by buck_taylor_ • 9 Questions • 306 Points

Hi, I'm a 30 year old guy who went to the doctor around Thanksgiving because I was having trouble breathing. Turns out I had something called "hypertensive emergency" which is when you have blood pressure so high that it causes organ damage. My blood pressure at the time of admission was 210/145. So I was admitted to the hospital under that diagnosis with renal failure, respiratory failure, and heart failure being the three main issues. Turns out the heart and lung failure were not collapsing on their own but were secondary to the hypertension and the kidney failure.

I spent a week in the hospital, including 4 days in the ICU and now everything is back to normal except my kidneys are failed, I need dialysis three times a week, and I need a new kidney. They also diagnosed me as having malignment hypertension (which sounds like something out of the Lord of the Rings, imo) but it basically is hypertension on crack. Left uncontrolled, my blood pressure wants to skyrocket. It happens to one percent of folks with "normal" hypertension -- which I didn't realize I had because I was doing that late 20s guy thing where I didn't go to the doctor. Don't do that, fyi.

I am currently at dialysis getting my blood cleaned of excess electrolytes which will kill you if they build up too much.

proof: here is a picture of my chest tubes pumping out my toxin riddled blood and the dialysis machine pumping back in my slightly less toxin riddled blood.

https://i.imgur.com/GycNfuY.png

AMA

Q:

What's the weirdest creature you've seen going down?

A:

What do you think caused your hypertension? I'm pretty ignorant to what causes hypertension. Eating habits? Life habits? Drug usage? Smoking? Drinking? Super stressful job? Certain life experiences? At any rate, get well, dude! Glad you caught it when you did.


Q:

It's gotta be the barrel-eye. The fish with the jelly head that can see through the top of its own skull. When you see it it doesn't look that impressive, and it looks quite small. but when you actually get close and zoom in on onit and realize what it is it just blows your mind. I think we've probably got the best footage that anyone's ever had, so that's amazing.

A:

It is an open question. I'm in pretty good shape all things considered. 6'1" 190 pounds, low LDL cholesterol. I drank but not heavily really. No drugs, no really stressful job.

When I was in the hospital, both the kidney and heart doctors were very confused about what was going on. I guess there are around seven causes of malignant hypertension and I don't have any of them. I, like an idiot, suggested genetics but they immediately were like "yea that is part of it but why you and not your sister" who has healthy blood pressure.

My cardiologist is sort of a character. During the first time he met me, he asked me if I had ordered vodka from Ukraine that was possibly watered down with antifreeze. That is how confused they are with why I developed this crazy blood pressure.


Q:

Thank you for such amazing footage. The barrel-eye is my new favorite fish. Are they very rare?

A:

By the looks of your skin yes, it almost looks like the guy who was poisoned in Russia. I guess that’s the kidneys. I hope you get better.


Q:

We actually don't know. We don't get to see many of them, but again, humans don't spend much time in the areas that they live in. So we really have no idea.

A:

that guy with the nuclear poisoning? I wonder if that would explain everything. haha


Q:

Former Boomer submariner here.

How long can you stay down in that rig?

Do you have an equivalent of “emergency blow” if things go badly?

Stay safe.

A:

I wish you the best of luck in your treatment and recovery. Has your doctor discussed CAPD (Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis) with you? CAPD was a game-changer for my father in the early '80s. He went from having to go back and forth to the dialysis center, sometimes in distress due to built-up electrolytes, to feeling good nearly all the time and feeling like he was in control of his own treatment. He sadly received an infection due to a hospital visit resulting from another condition, and the nurse staff were not prepared to properly observe his CAPD protocol. But this was back when CAPD was new -- hopefully you can benefit from it and nurse staffs are more aware.


Q:

Former SRV pilot here!

Normal dive is 12 hours. And we have four days emergency life support. We've got redundance systems for everything ("backup system" for others reading).

But in remote areas we always have the two subs, so the other one can act as a rescue sub.

A:

Yea, PD is a big thing. One of my in hospital doctors was all about it.

I might consider it eventually, but right now I hardly ever feel that rough from my kidney failure. The big thing for me is that I don't want to have to do it every day and I like having two days off in a row. If I weren't peeing out a lot of the electrolytes and felt shit after eating too much salt or something, I think I would feel pressure to try something different. Right now, I don't feel that though.


Q:

Why do they call the person in command of a submarine a pilot?

As opposed to a captain or something else.

A:

The benefit to peritoneal dialysis is that it can be done at home and over night using an automated exchange machine and allows you to retain a much better quality of life

Blood exchange dialysis is much harsher on your system and will eventually cause other problems (calcification of vessels being the worst)

I noticed elsewhere you mentioned a fistula placement. These eventually degrade and need relocating or new ones being fitted and can sometimes even block after fitting. None of these treatments are designed to be life long, and I don’t say that with the intent to upset you. They are a poor facsimile of what your kidneys can do and delay at best the inevitable (sometimes for many years)

PD works by having a tenckhoff catheter (tube in belly going in to your peritoneal sack) where fluid is exchanged in and out generally over night. Fluid is then left in during the day (takes much getting used too and gives you a belly) which absorbs much of the toxins your kidneys can’t. It’s much less harsh and is suitable for patients with less “severe” kidney failure. Sometimes even after trying this method it is still not viable for some patients. Even if for some reason your exchange machine breaks you can manually drain and refill using gravity, slower yes, but allows more flexibility in your lifestyle.


Q:

Because we "fly" the submarine in three dimensions. So although not as fast as an aeroplane, you do fly the submarine.

A:

This is super informative. One of the things that has been kind of hard with this part is that I don't know what I don't know so when people ask me if I have any questions, I feel like I'm content info wise.

I most of this (except that you leave the fluid in during the day) but I felt like I gained context. I will have to think more about it.

Fwiw, it does seem like there are people going through the donation process so hopefully any dialysis choice I make won't be too consequential for too long.


Q:

What species of fish have you not yet seen in-person before, but of so very much wish to?

A:

You said your blood pressure at the time of admission was 210/145.... what was your regular blood pressure like in the past?


Q:

I'd like to see a mature oarfish. I've seen juveniles, which are about 20 centimeters long, but they can grow up to about 11 meters long.

When you see them dead on the beach they don't look that impressive but in the water they're absolutely stunning.

A:

That is the mistake I made -- I don't really know. I hadn't been to the doctor for 7-8 years probably before this happened. It was never really a problem in college or high school. Unclear when the hypertension developed or exactly how high it was.


Q:

How do you deal with currents that are probably not known before?

A:

I hadn't been to the doctor for 7-8 years probably before this happened.

This is one of those things I don't understand. I say this as a 29 year old man who has nearly always at least done a yearly checkup but doesn't have any chronic medical conditions (that I know of).

I can understand if you don't have insurance, but it bewilders me how every guy my age, including the ones with good jobs/insurance, seems convinced going to the doctor is something you only need to do if you're concerned you might die if you don't go.


Q:

So, on the Alucia (ship) we have a system called an ADCP, and we can measure current through the water column. So we know what the speed of the water's doing at any depth. So before we dive we'll map the area so we know the topography and we also know what the current's doing. And based on that we decide if we can or can't dive. When we get to about 2.5 knots it gets a little bit "exciting." Because we can only go three knots.

A:

I think it happens a lot. What can I say? I deffo paid the price for it.

also, I didn't even think I was going to die when I first went to the doctor and my blood oxygen was 81. I just thought I had some acid reflux.


Q:

How does one become a professional submarine pilot, in terms of acquiring the necessary skills and education for it; would you mind sharing your story?

A:

Sorry if this sounds really insensitive, but is it true that dialysis can cure a hangover?


Q:

Really it's a mixed group of people, but generally you need an engineering background of mechanical/electrical or electronics. And that's mainly to keep the submersibles working.

So I did mechanical engineering after leaving school, then I joined the navy as a clearance diver and trained as a submarine rescue pilot. After serving 14 years I got offered a job by a company that manufactured submarine rescue submersibles. And I ended up going all over the world teaching different nations how to pilot rescue subs. And then, from there, it was great but I wasn't getting to see anything, so I swapped over into the science and media side of submersibles, which was a lot more exciting. And I actually got to see things under the water again.

I've been with the Alucia for coming up to ten years. I'm head of submersible department, which means I've got two submarines and ten pilots that I manage and I'm also senior pilot.

A:

so the very first time i had dialysis I asked this. She said that it makes you throw up. However, I have gone to dialysis once while hungover (the monday after new years) and I guess it kind of helped. You get some iv fluids when the process is happening so I imagine that was most of it. Also, I guess any residual junk in blood from drinking would get filtered out.

However, the big thing is drugs. I've had like 5-6 warnings about drugs. Don't put drugs into my chest tubes (fucking lol at the prospect of doing that) but also they told me that if you are high on something or are an active drug user for some drugs, dialysis can intensify the withdrawal effects of some drugs. I guess. I don't know much about the drug part.


Q:

I saw the scenes with the methane gas popping at the bottom of the ocean, how was the experience for you to see that up close?

A:

So is there no silver lining at all?


Q:

Very surreal experience. We were expecting these tiny little bubbles. When we got there it even surprised the scientist we had on board (mandy Joye). It was like being in a "War of the Worlds" movie. There's more videos on it coming out tomorrow from Alucia Productions if you check their handles.

A:

lol no not really. its pretty annoying and has put a pause on a lot of the stuff I had going on. But, there is nothing I can do so there is no reason to focus on those parts.


Q:

Have you ever encountered the Chimaera aka the ghostfish or ratfish? What's the longest amount of time you've spent underwater and how does it feel to be on land after being in the sea for so long?

A:

Damn man, I’m really sorry. At least you’ve come to terms with it, somewhat


Q:

Yeah we encounter them a lot, especially at depths below 750m. Beautiful creature.

Longest time we've spent in the submersible is 12 hours. But we get launched and recovered back to the ship every day. So, normally the longest we'll do at sea is a month, and we dive every day of that month. And definitely, coming back to shore, very often you'll get "landsick." Which is almost the opposite of being seasick. So you can still feel the sensation of the ship moving when you come back to land for a couple of days.

A:

thanks. you also can't even drink beer when you have kidney failure lol