Re: Trip Report: Diving in Southern California Hyperbaric Chambers

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Posted by Laurie Powers on October 07, 2004 at 15:37:52:

In Reply to: Trip Report: Diving in Southern California Hyperbaric Chambers posted by Elaine on August 14, 2004 at 10:43:19:

I know it's really late, but I just happened to be surfing around the site on a slow day at work and noticed your posting. Your experience is practically identical to my experience getting bent in 1998, except the cause of my case was simple - too many deep dives in a week of diving at Cozumel. I waited 26 hours to get on the on the plane and wammo, pain in the left arm between the elbow and shoulder. And I did exactly the same thing you did...I went into denial. The hit was at a location where I had been previously injured in a horseback riding accident in the early 80s. The injury had always caused me a little trouble, so I immediately rationalized that it was "Oh, it must be from lifing all the gear," etc. etc. Make a long story short, I waited two full days before being treated (I was in Massachusetts at the time, and part of my hesitation I think was thinking that I would have to go all the way to Boston - 2 hours away - to be treated. As it was, when I finally called DAN, I found out that a monochamber was 15 minutes away.)I spent five hours the first day in the chamber (after what seemed hours of filling out paperwork, signing forms); the second day, I was still feeling some residual pain so they threw me in for another 2 hours.

I'm telling you all this now because I know exactly what it is like to suffer AFTER treatment. People don't realize that the hardest part of getting treated for bends sometimes is not the treatment in the chamber - it's the recovery afterwards, especially if you have delayed treatment. I had pain for 8 weeks - the pain was not due to inadequate treatment but because I had waited so long, the tissue in my arm was badly damaged from lack of available oxygen and needed to heal. Advil every three hours. I could not move my arm for weeks (I was in school, and taking notes was impossible). I ended up in physical therapy, and it took me many many months of slow recovery. But it eventually happened. I too, went through the maze of calling several different doctors about whether I could dive again. I got answers ranging from "You should never dive again" to "Oh, just treat it like a sports injury. You get bent again, you'll have to get it treated again." Yikes.
I was depressed for months.
Don't be discouraged if you find yourself going through a very slow recovery period. Find a good PT or a sports medicine doctor who can give you some good exercise routines to help heal. Swimming and using a rowing machine helped me tremendously. Still, I waited 9 months before diving again.
I have been diving again for several years, albeit on a slower pace than usual, but that's only because of logistics, not because of fear. The doctor that treated me gave me the soundest advice I think for diving in the future: Go ahead. If I do a deep dive (+100 feet) that will be the only dive for the day. Multi-day trips - take a day or two off in the middle somewhere. It's all just common sense. Now, I jump in the water without being afraid.
Feel free to email me if you want to.
By the way, amazingly my school insurance paid for 80% of the bill. DAN, which is secondary insurance, picked up the remainder and paid it within 10 days. We should all have such good luck with our regular insurance companies.

Laurie Powers

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