On January 11, 2017 The UWI Discovery Bay Marine Lab Hyperbaric Treatment Facility recently hosted a seminar titled “Hyperbaric Medicine in Jamaica”. A dedicated group of about 30 health care professionals from the North East Region Health Association (NERHA) attended from St. Ann’s Bay, Annotto Bay, Port Maria, and Port Antonio Hospitals along with our Safety/Technical staff and Hyperbaric Physicians (HP) met to discuss SCUBA diving accidents and hyperbaric chamber procedures.
Our staff gave presentation on chamber usage and on what happens to a patient with the Bends/DCI. Mr. Peter Gayle (past safety director of the Chamber) gave a brief history of Hyperbaric Medicine in Jamaica, the kinds of patients treated, and possible future uses of this therapeutic tool. Dr. Dayne Buddo (Diving Officer and Assistant Safety Director) gave a brief introduction to SCUBA diving and how the water pressure can affect the body to cause DCI.
Our HP’s (Dr. Thandi Buddo and Dr. Ivanie Godfrey) presented on Hyperbaric Therapy for the treatment of DCI. They discussed a range of cases relating to the effectiveness of the Emergency Room response and actions and stressed the importance of not making a decision for the treatment of suspected BENDS patients without consulting an HP. Both Doctors noted that DCI patients show a better response to treatment the sooner the patient goes into the chamber. There are many factors that should be flagged by emergency room physicians and staff when a patient presents as a suspected diving accident. Factors like: age, medical history, along with depth, duration and number of dives in the immediate 48 hours prior to the injury, depth and duration of decompression stops taken by the diver, and time of onset of symptoms. All of this information can better inform the HP to diagnose the type of DCI affecting the patient and the severity of the case. The need to give oxygen and fluids to the patients was also stressed. Mr. Camilo Trench (Safety Director) and Mr. Hugh Small (Assistant Safety Director) spoke on the protocol currently in place for arranging and transporting a patient to the Lab for treatment in the Chamber and safety considerations while treating the patients.
Along with the classroom presentations we brought attendees back to the Lab to see the hyperbaric chamber in action. Some even volunteered to go inside to feel what it is like to be under that much pressure. Our chamber operator went inside with 6 of the attendees to ensure everyone was safe. A nurse is always inside the chamber with the patient, and the question came up about the nurse suffering any ill effects. This was answered with a more detailed explanation of the therapy tables used to treat a diving accident patient in the chamber. The benefits of slow increasing pressure up, allow the persons inside the Chamber to acclimate while descending was demonstrated. Slowly reducing pressure while ascending served to reassure the medical staff that all necessary precautions were taken to ensure their safety in the Chamber.
The attendees came away with a much greater understanding of the procedures involved in treating patients with DCI and the importance of communication with the chamber personnel before and after treatment to inform medical decisions and ensure that patients with these sorts of diving injuries receive the best possible care to maximize their chances of full recovery. This vital seminar will be repeated at the other regional health authorities islandwide in the near future as The UWI Discovery Bay Marine Lab Hyperbaric Treatment Facility continues to improve the level of service we offer to the country.