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ISSUE 23 ARCHIVE - AT THE CHAMBER

Jessica Hin

I have been diving for the past 8 years and have been fortunate enough to have dived in some of the most beautiful parts of the world. I did my open water in Koh Tao (Thailand) like many people, on my backpacking South East Asia gap year. I then had a brief break from diving and reignited the passion in 2014 when I did my Advanced, Deep Diving and Nitrox qualifications in Gili Ayre (Bali). I then proceeded to go on some wonderful dives such as in El Nido (Phillipines), Mabul Island (Borneo) and many more. This has lead me to have been on approximately 50 dives and the more I go on, the more I love it!

When a friend and myself planned on going to Gozo (Malta), we planned on having a day of diving as part of our trip. This was near the beginning of the trip and we had a fantastic time, doing 2 fairly shallow but quite long dives. What we didn't foresee was that we would return and 24 hours later experience odd tingling symptoms. After an evening of being unsure what the symptoms were, we rang the 24 hour advice line and confirmed with the doctor on call that we may be experiencing decompression sickness symptoms. We booked in to see the doctor at the Midlands Diving Chamber in Rugby the next day to be checked over. On arrival the team were extremely welcoming and reassuring, offering tea/coffee and biscuits whilst we waited to see the doctor. The doctor was thorough in taking my dive and medical history and examination. He confirmed I did in fact have mild symptoms of decompression illness and would need to go into the hyperbaric chamber to alleviate the symptoms. He explained if I did not, symptoms may subside but there could be potential issues for future dives. This was enough to convince me to be treated in the chamber, as I did not want to compromise future diving opportunities.

The hyperbaric chamber treatment involved changing into scrubs and sitting in a chamber that mimics the decent of a dive but with the administration of oxygen therapy. We descended with a hyperbaric tender in the chamber with us, while two technicians ran the treatment from the outside. We wore oxygen masks in the chamber, breathing oxygen for 20 minutes at a time with 5 minute breaks in between. During the time in the chamber we had to report our symptoms to the team for them to monitor us. As we descended the tingling symptoms disappeared as the nitrogen bubbles in our tissues compressed. The oxygen therapy is supposed to displace these bubbles and upon ascent, as the air expands again, symptoms should be reduced.

The initial treatment was approximately 5.45 hours in the chamber. This seems long, but the team provided us with tea/coffee and biscuits, lunch (ordered Thai take away!) and water. We were also told to bring reading material for entertainment. The team were very hospitable and even provided a film for us to watch through the window of the chamber! After the initial treatment, I still had some residual tingling and so the doctor suggested a second, shorter treatment in the chamber of 1.45 hours. After this treatment the doctor was happy with my symptom progress and discharged me. We were even given merchandise (a mug and a copy of FAQ Dive Medicine) after our time at the chamber. After about 1 week, all my symptoms had completely cleared and I received a letter from the centre reporting my condition and treatment with the centre for my own reference.

The overall experience at the diving chamber in Rugby was extremely pleasant despite the circumstances. I felt the team could not have been more hospitable and created a friendly yet professional setting. They were reassuring about our condition and we felt confident and safe in their hands. If I ever do suffer from another bout of DCI, I will not hesitate to call the hotline for the Midlands Diving Chamber to come back for DCI treatment again. Despite my experience, it has not deterred me from embarking on future dive adventures, but I make sure that I am over cautious regarding the rules of diving and flying.

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