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The Chamber Boys


Tim Moran

"Hi Ben. How are you keeping?" I asked over the phone.
"Good Tim and you?" Came his familiar antipodean response.
"How are you fixed for an RNT62 this week?" I replied.
"Oh, oh. What's up then?" said Ben realising this wasn't entirely a social call.
"I think I've caught a type one in my left elbow. The niggle came on a couple of days after a dive. I didn't bust any tables but it was a long cold one and maybe I should have doubled the short deco." I explained.
"How are you feeling?" Ben asked.
"Localised joint pain, unusually tired and my balance is a bit off." I replied with the information I knew Ben needed.
"It sounds as though we need to see you then" Ben advised.
It may seem odd, travelling from Wales to a pot in Central London. But the journey time for me puts the London Diving Chamber at St. John's Wood as convenient as any hyperbaric facility and LDC had straightened me up after a previous type one hit following a mixed gas dive. I felt very relaxed about returning to their care.

Emerging from St. Johns Wood underground station I walked the two hundred yards to the St John and St Elizabeth Hospital where the London Diving Chamber has its home, and the familiar faces of the chamber crew greeted me.

"Hi Tim. Everything's ready for you. Let's do the paperwork and then you can see Dr Oliver Firth". Said Bill. Due to the late presentation, we decided I needed an extension to the standard RNT 62 table which put my time in the chamber up to 5 hours and 40 minutes. The paperwork was familiar; Recompression therapy RNT 62 with extensions and re-treatments as necessary. 100% O2 at 2.8 bar ppO2 max. 4 ¾ 5 hours 40 minutes. To recompress and remove inert gas trapped in the body caused by DCI. To enhance healing to tissue and nerves after damage by DCI. Oxygen toxicity explained.
Oliver Firth, the London Diving Chamber's resident hyperbaric physician and Sport Diver Magazine's medical advice guru ran me through the physical examination. Reflexes, balance, chest, ears and eyes were checked and he listened to the circumstances of the suspected bend.

Steve had wanted to build another couple of hours towards completing his rebreather MOD 1. My twin 12's were loaded with 32% and Steve had a normoxic mix to breathe so we agreed to run down the 45 metre shot where I loitered at a PPO2 of somewhere between 1.4 and 1.6, where I picked up an easterly heading which a few minutes later put me over the roadway and a slightly more circumspect PPO2. Steve continued with his descent and hit the quarry floor some 25 metres deeper and I lost sight of his powerful HID.

I'd taken a few snaps of Steve on the descent and arriving at the roadway gave me the opportunity to shoot a few more while I waited for him. An old loading gantry complete with a ladder hanging incongruously in space was a subject worth dwelling on.

After a while Steve's HID shone out of the murk and having exchanged some irreverent hand signals I setup a few shots of him hanging over the gantry before we headed north. My VR3 confirmed I had nudged into deco as we picked our way around various bits of wreckage and made a gradual ascent. With a run time of probably one hour and thirty minutes we were approaching the shallow end of the quarry.

It was January and the temperature at depth was only 6 degrees Celsius. I was feeling pretty comfortable wearing a 5mm O'Three dry suit and an obligatory set of Thermocline Arctics, wicking layer and full face mask. There was a small hitch though... I'd read somewhere that a pair of 'Marigold' washing up gloves made a good substitute for proper dry gloves. The reasoning was that if the Marigolds were worn under the dry suit, the wrist seals would create a dry glove. A pair of 3mm wet gloves on top of the Marigolds completed the experiment. However a small crease in the cuff allowed a minute trickle of water to track under the wrist seal and an hour into the dive, the forearms of my Arctics were sodden with chilled water. With my 'core' still warm, this wasn't bothering me and the thought of cutting short our expected hour and a half to two run time hadn't entered my mind.

With hardly any mandatory decompression left to complete I elected to ignore the deep stops showing on my VR3 and I chose to complete the very small deco obligation using the D9 I was also wearing. After only a minute at six metres and a three minute safety stop I was clear to surface.

The following day I shot the Extreme Ironing World Record, breathing the 36% I had onboard one of my single twelves. So I figured this short dive to 12 metres wasn't the cause of the elbow pain and other symptoms which manifested a day later. I suspected that during the first half of the previous longer, deeper dive I 'ongassed' nitrogen at a rate consistent with being reasonably warm and comfortable. Although not feeling especially cold, my arms became chilled due to the suit leak and probably 'offgassed' more slowly as a consequence. Maybe I should have recognised this and taken a few extra minutes at six metres. But hey, that's 20/20 hindsight...
Ralf Tech
Hitting 'depth' in the chamber immediately relieved the pain in my elbow which continued to improve throughout the recompression treatment and confirmed that DCI was present. The next day I returned for a relatively quick 're-treat' which aided the healing process by saturating the tissues with O2.

Since, some residual discomfort has persisted and I've needed to take the odd anti-inflammatory or two and a little surface O2 has also helped. Some three months on (at the time of writing) I can still detect a slight discomfort in my elbow which is probably a little nerve damage repairing itself, but on balance I feel the hit is entirely resolved and I'm looking forward to a wet summer. Dive safe and many thanks to the London Diving Chamber.
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