The compression chamber has been operated by the Barbados Defence Force since 1985. There are currently four HBO (Hyperbaric Oxygen) trained physicians to ensure reliable 24hr medical support for the team of 4 Chamber Operators and 8 Chamber Attendants.
The Diving Accident cover that the unit provides is available to scuba users from Puerto Rico to Grenada. The facility, however, is also used almost daily by non diving accident patients. Hyperbaric Oxygen can be used as adjunctive therapy for: Grafts (bone or skin); Burns; Chronic Bone Infection; Crush Injuries; Skin Ulcers; Gangrene and other conditions where blood supply is compromised.
These non diving accident patients come particularly from the Queen Elizabeth Hosital (QEH). The QEH is one of the University of the West Indies’ teaching hospitals and it also takes patients from neighboring islands.
The divers that enjoy Barbados’ waters are quite diverse, differing in characterisitcs such as origin, age, goals and experience. Two particular types of diver attract my attention:
The first is the younger (or young at heart!) group. Since their last excursion under water, they have looked forward to their dive vacation for many months. They have not dived for a long period and their work schedule has disrupted their exercise routine.
However, once they arrive in Barbados, the tropical blue sea and sky is theirs. Unfortunately these zealots forget the physiology of pressure tolerance and immediately embark on a 2 or 3 dive per day routine to take full advantage of their week in paradise. This is a routine that sends shivers down a hyperbaric physicians spine.
While we are happy for our visitors to enjoy all of the facilities Barbados has to offer, this type of routine is begging a visit to the chamber, which is not usually on a person’s Top 10 to do list. Too often we have met an individual such as this on day 3 of their vacation having done 8 or 9 dives without the acclimatisation to dump their nitrogen load.
Beware! Better yet be cautious.
The second category is the “older” diver who has used the same routine on their diving vacation “for years.” An inescapable fact of life is that as we get older we become less flexible. This in turn makes us less tolerant of physiological changes.
Climate change requires more thought for hydration and fatigue. Diving tolerance therefore takes longer to acquire. So just because it was what you did last year is not good enough.
Consider each new venue in its own new circumstances. Just as the sea bed changes, changing the currents and tides, so do we.
Although we will always be ready to serve you, we really wish we won’t have to. Enjoy your diving excursions safely. Please feel free to visit the unit as a tourist and not a patient!
Compression Chamber by Dr. Brown