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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy - Self Treatment

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The Complete Story

While reading the last issues of both UWS and the NACD Journal, it dawned on me that I could remember only once reading anything on the subject of DCS. Why? Is it a dirty word? Are we ashamed of it? I don’t think so. I’m certainly not, and we all are aware of it. So, perhaps this is as good a time as any to share my personal experience with you. Unfortunately, I can condense it only so much.

May 26th, 1997. My wife, Polly, and I were at our home on Bonaire. We usually spent about 60% of our time there and 40% at our home in Florida. I had taught some open water courses to house guests doing 16 dives in 13 days. The last two dives were less than 1 hour and less than 30 fsw. After our guests’departure, we took two full days to rest and to out-gas. After 54 hours of surface interval, we took an afternoon “cool-off” dive - one we’ve done hundreds of times from our back steps: 42 ft for 40 min, surface to surface, with a time of about 8 minutes to ascend from 31ft. When we left 31 ft to swim (drift) home from our favorite vase sponge, my Aladin Pro indicated 99 minutes ANDL as did Polly’s. I used less than 32 ft3 of air. We both felt great - cooled off and relaxed.

Within seconds after I stood up in shallow water, I knew something was wrong. I felt slightly weak as if going into a mild shock; I detected a slight loss of strength in my left arm and leg, and I had a mild “sensation” in my chest but no pain. As I walked up our steps (Polly had me stop for the photo), my brain processed all the related data in an instant. I knew it could not be dive related: 42 fsw for 40 min surface-to-surface with an 8 minute ascent from 31 ft and 54 hours of surface interval? No way, Jose! It could not be a “hit!” Polly felt fine. Therefore, I assumed it was a coronary as the symptoms were identical to those my Dad described before he died . When we reached our patio, I told Polly, “I think I am having a heart attack.” Before I could peel my wet suit, I had lost all capability in my left arm and leg, and my right leg was in a spasm. Immediately Polly had me on 100% O2 from a SCUBA regulator on one of my O2 tanks. I was on the way to the hospital within a few more minutes breathing pure O2 all the way.

No more than 20 to 25 minutes could have elapsed from the time I surfaced until I arrived at the E/R where the Dr. was waiting. We had radioed ahead. I felt much better then. By the time the films were developed and the physician (personal friend) finished examining me, I felt great! All my neuro checks, and EKG and pulmonary X-rays were OK, and I felt like going to happy hour! The Dr. assured me it was not a heart attack; however, he felt it possibly could have been a TIA1 cleared by the O2, or there was a remote possibility it could have been dive related in spite of my contrary convictions. He ordered me to stay in the hospital overnight for observation. (20/20 hindsight: should have gone into the chamber immediately - VERY SERIOUS mistake!) Unknown to me or the Dr., Pam Teitel (chamber supervisor, good friend and former cave dive student) got the chamber ready and had lined up a crew who are all volunteers on Bonaire.

About two hours later, I began having uncontrollable shivers and spasms at intervals like labor pains. As soon as I could get word to the Dr., he ordered me to the chamber in another building. In reply to my query, he told me he would probably give me a Table VI with one or two extensions depending upon my reactions. My response was, “Hey I better pee! That could be 6 to 7 hours!” You guessed it. When they tried to get me off the gurney, I was completely paralyzed from waist down, bilaterally. They dragged me to the toilet, dropped my shorts and said, “pee, man, pee!” No luck. I had no feeling and no control, and I was losing my upper body strength rapidly. They called r a nurse and a Foley catheter, STAT, and transferred me to the board to slide me into the chamber. The nurse arrived and catheterized me with a Foley (one with a balloon in the bladder to keep it in), and they shoved me into the chamber with another nurse diving friend of mine as my tender tossing my shorts in as an afterthought. Modesty was the least of my worries. By the time they got me in that cozy little chamber, catching my Foley bag on the lock-out door in the process (an experience to remember), I was virtually quadriplegic! I could move nothing from