12 December, 1996
I attended a dive rescue drill today that was led by the head of the diving operations here in McMurdo. The rescue team was assembled at the hypobaric chamber which is housed near the medical facilities here. A hypobaric chamber is used to pressurize a person who has been injured by a rapid ascent following a dive. This can cause air bubbles to form in their blood causing a condition known as the "bends". The bends are called this because one of the symptoms is painful movement of the joints
resulting in the victim holding the joints in a "bent" position. I went iside the hypobaric chamber with a doctor and was pressurized to a depth of 60 ft. We immediately noticed an increase in temperature that was the result of the increased pressure. We also had some slightly uncomfortable
"popping" in our ears. After being pressurized we were then depressurized
back to atmospheric conditions. This was a much slower process and took about 45 minutes. The rescue team each had assigned tasks to do that were
outline on a clipboard. It took a minimum of three people to operate the chamber plus a medically trained person to accompany the "victim" in the chamber. The hypobaric chamber has been at McMurdo since 1988 and has been used 8 times for decompression type illness such as the "bends".
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