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March 2019    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 34, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Bad Stories about the Bends

how hospital protocol and a boat crew nearly killed divers

from the March, 2019 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Rigorously following any computer decompression algorithm isn't any guarantee that you will not get bent. The important thing is to recognize the symptoms of decompression sickness, no matter how minor, and get treatment. However, as these two stories below show, so-called dive professionals aren't always ensuring sure you get the speedy chamber care you need post-haste.

Why Diving in Ontario Could Be Dangerous

What would you think if your spouse, suffering from the bends, was put into an ambulance . . . and then driven past the nearest hyperbaric facility?

That's what happened to David Phelps from Detroit. His wife, Denise, nearly died in 2016 from DCS after a freshwater dive at Fathom Five National Marine Park in Tobermory, Ontario. Their mini-vacation ended in disaster, which might have been mitigated had circumstances - and hospital treatment protocol - been different.

Denise Phelps had logged about 150 dives when she and David went for a wreck dive in Georgian Bay. They'd been underwater about 10 minutes at 33 feet when she urgently signalled to David that she wanted to ascend. She shot past him, and he found her unconscious at the surface. Once Phelps was recovered from the water, David drove their car behind the ambulance carrying her. George Harpur, the medic in charge of Tobermory's hyperbaric facility, was waiting at the door. But the ambulance drove straight on by. The protocol for treating injured divers had recently changed, and it was now necessary to triage them first at a hospital at Lion Head's, 30 miles away....

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