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Portable hyberbaric chamber can provide immediate treatment
By Dick Kauffman


June 06, 2005

Ketchikan, Alaska - Commercial diving in Alaska can present many life-threatening challenges, however Greg Harrison owner of Diversified Diving Service of Ketchikan is making sure treatment for one of those life-threatening challenges is immediately available. According to Harrison, Diversified Diving will be using one of the first portable hyberbaric chambers in this area for treatment of decompression sickness.

jpg Portable Hyberbaric Chamber

Portable Hyberbaric Chamber
Adam Day, of Diversified Diving, receives training. Inside the chamber
during the training was diver Alan Benitz of Ketchikan.
Photo by Dick Kauffman

This unique GSE (Giunio Santi Engineering) Portable Hyberbaric Chamber is offered by Nautilus Underwater Systems. According to information provided by Nautilus Underwater Systems, the portable hyberbaric chamber is constructed of two aluminum alloy ends with the cylindrical portion of the chamber made from two layers of cloth. The inner layer is a gas bag made of a new composite polyester cloth impregnated with urethane for better sealing. The outer bag is a web net of cargo straps made of the same polyester material. This provides strength against the gas pressure in the inner bag and maintains the shape of the chamber. The concept, says Nautilus Underwater Systems, is similar to an inner tube in a tire, where the seal is provided by the inner tube (or gas bag) and the shape is provided by the tire (or web bag).

The bends, a popular name for a syndrome seen in deep-sea divers, is a very serious, potentially lethal condition. Decompression sickness, the bends, arises from too rapid a release of nitrogen from solution in the affected diver's blood. If a diver surfaces too quickly, nitrogen that had dissolved in the blood under increasing water pressure is suddenly released, forming bubbles in the bloodstream and causing pain (the 'bends') and paralysis. Sixty percent of your nervous system is composed of fatty tissue. When the nitrogen stored there turns into bubbles, it wreaks havoc. Nitrogen is also stored in the joints - thus the name the bends - and directly under the skin producing a blotchy rash. Immediate treatment is a gradual decompression in a decompression chamber, while breathing pure oxygen.

jpg Repacking Portable Chamber

Training on properly repacking the Portable Hyberbaric Chamber
Adam Day and Andrew Driver, a representative
of Nautilus Underwater Systems from New York...
Photograph by Dick Kauffman

Diversified Diving's divers underwent additional training on the portable hyberbaric chamber unit last Thursday. Andrew Driver, a representative of Nautilus Underwater Systems from New York, was in Ketchikan last week to assist with the training and answer questions. Driver said, "The beauty of this system is that is a portable system weighing 120 pounds. The normal chamber one thinks of is a huge metal cylinder that weights 5,000 pounds."

Driver said if you don't get the affected diver back under pressure immediately he could die. With the ability to have the portable hyberbaric chamber unit on board and readily available, Driver said the diver won't be waiting long hours for a plane to fly in and transport him to the nearest decompression chamber. A lot of damage can be done in that wait time said Driver.

The bends, or decompression sickness, is just one danger of diving. Other dangers include nitrogen narcosis, oxygen toxicity and simple drowning if a diver runs out of air before making it back to the surface. During Thursday's training session, Diversified Diving demonstrated to its staff that proper training, good equipment and careful execution are the keys to safe diving.


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Diversified Diving Service


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