By Sarah Drake & Neil Conlon
It was a fresh morning as 16 divers headed off to Murrayfield Hospital at Heswall on the Wirral to experience a dry dive to 40m (ever grateful that in February no water was involved) but came away with more than that. Dave, guided us through the workings of the chamber. Everyone was amazed to learn that the facility is not just there for the diving community at the weekend, I’ll come to that later, but Monday to Friday provides a valuable resource for the NHS to call on.
Why would a facility 24/7 have consultants, nurses, technicians and a midwife on call? Hyperbaric medicine has been found to significantly benefit the treatment of burns, cancer and flesh eating infections. Those with delicate stomachs were warned of the graphic nature of the accompanying slides but seeing the before and after slides was bearable knowing that someone’s quality of life had improved.
We dive therefore we are exposing ourselves to the possibility of Decompression Sickness (DCS) or as it is sometimes called “the bends”. Dave offered advice as to how you can reduce that possibility – don’t drink diuretics before a dive i.e. tea and coffee, hydrate with water but better still cordial with a pinch of salt, get plenty of rest before a dive, don’tdrink or smoke.
If you find yourself in the position of suspecting that all is not as it should be when exiting the water, Dave was at pains to stress that delaying contacting the chamber is not the way forward. Your health verses the price of a phone call to seek advice and to give the facts of your dive profile and not what you would ideally have liked to dive was the key point.
Additionally, it was interesting to find out that DCS may be brought on by unknown underlying health issues such as Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO).
It was possible to enter and look around the main chamber and chat to one of the technicians on duty but what we were all there for was the smaller chamber which accommodated a maximum of 10. 40m here we come! Dive computer in the bucket of water and once locked in we were off.
Equalisation was little and often and when we arrived at our destination the quiz sheets and pencils were out. How the brain functions under pressure was full of giggles and voices up several octaves. The results wererevealed at shallow depths. Oh dear, no full marks for anyone but we did all have the perfect dive profile to log!
16 regulars from Reefers and Wreckers attended the Murray field Hyperbaric Chamber on Sunday 26th February.
The day started with a warm welcome from the Chamber staff followed by a very informative presentation on the medical benefits of hyperbaric techniques, not only for divers but also burns victims and some fairly gruesome looking pictures to help the breakfast settle.
After the presentation it was downstairs ready for the ‘dry dive’. For the uninitiated, the dry dive consists of entering the chamber, which is then sealed and pressurised with air to 5 bar to simulate the Narcotic effect of a dive to 40M. This always produces some entertaining effects…..
By 25M the air has reached 3.5 times its density at the surface making your vocal chords vibrate at a higher pitch, giving everyone a very squeaky voice. Combined the with the narcotic effect of Nitrogen inhaled under pressure (narcosis- the Martini effect!) and you end up with a Pot full of giggling divers with a limited of their reduced mental capacity. By 40M this is quite pronounced.
The temperature also increases significantly.
There is a monitor externally which the next group in can watch. It’s a bit like being the only sober person at a drunken party! All these effects are reversed as you ‘ascend’ back to the surface. You regain your senses; your voice returns to normal and the temperature drops.
All round this is a very educational visit and we’ll worth the money (£35) .
Thanks to Sarah Drake for organising and everyone who turned up on the day.