Health Matters: Beating "The Bends"

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While diving offers us the opportunity to experience the immense beauty of our Florida waters, if a diver rises to the surface too quickly they may succumb to a serious illness called "the bends."

In this Health Matters, we look at the symptoms and treatment for this condition.

A diver since the age of 16, Holly Dugger was on what she perceived to be a routine dive until she felt something going wrong in her body. Her ascent to the surface may have happened too quickly.

Holly says, “I came up and shortly after the dive, I started noticing pain in both of my elbows, which was abnormal ‘cause I had not done anything that would have cause that kind pain.”

Upon arriving at Capital Regional Medical Center, Holly was placed in the hyperbaric chamber, a steel piece of equipment that assists the body in returning to equilibrium.

Jack Horning, HBO Coordinator at Capital Regional Medical Center, says, “Depending on the patient and how soon they get here and the severity of the symptoms, we do an assessment determine whether or not it was a decompression problem, and we pressurize them.”

If Holly hadn't been treated in the hyperbaric chamber she could have suffered long-term effects such as paralysis or bone and joint deterioration, and she possibly could have died.

Jack adds, “Pressurize the patient to the most standard treatment depth is 60 ft. You start them on breathing pure oxygen at that time.”

The immediate use of this equipment was the key to her recovery.

Holly says, “They treated me for five and a half hours on oxygen and by the time the treatment was over, I was pain free.”

With the increase in participation in one of Florida's most colorful recreational sports on the rise, it's important to learn and follow the rules of diving every time you head for the beauty of our oceans floor.

A new study found that people who exercised intensely 24 hours before they dove, greatly decreased the occurrence of "the bends”, or decompression sickness.

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