Re: Hyperbaric Medicine

Dear Editor,
I read with interest the letter from BH of Carvoeiro and the article by Dr. Paulo Vieira de Sousa in last week’s Resident. Two significant points come to mind.
First, BH is wrong in thinking that the newly sunk wrecks are at a depth which do not impose a great risk.
A careless diver could easily contract decompression sickness whilst diving these wrecks, particularly if they do two or more dives per day. In fact I know personally of someone contracting decompression sickness whilst diving to depths less than this, and within the limits prescribed by tables and dive computers.
Second, I was surprised at the lack of knowledge by Dr. De Sousa on what he calls “divers disease”, and what I take to mean decompression sickness. Decompression sickness, or “the bends” as it is more popularly called, is caused by nitrogen dissolved in a divers tissues. The deeper a diver goes, and the longer he stays down, the more nitrogen dissolves in the tissues.
If this extra nitrogen is not released slowly on surfacing, it comes out of solution and forms bubbles. The bubbles themselves block blood vessels and stop blood supply to vital organs, and in extreme cases cause serious clotting within the bloodstream.
Sadly, this is not the only thing that the unwary diver can be caught out by. If he holds his breath on his way to the surface, the air in his lungs expands, and can eventually cause the lungs to burst.
Irrespective of the cause, or what name you give to it, there is only one treatment, and that is re-compression in a re-compression chamber. As a diver of some 50 years experience, and as an instructor trainer for one of the largest dive clubs in the world, I also welcome the arrival of the new facilities in the Alvor hospital, and I look forward to checking them out – from the outside that is, not the inside!