Com­ments from DAN Asia-Pa­cific’s John Lipp­mann

Scuba Diver Australasia - - Research, Education & Medicine - Alice has re­ally said it all in her in­sight­ful re­view of her ter­ri­ble ex­pe­ri­ence. The key is­sue here was her “de­nial” that this could be de­com­pres­sion ill­ness, which is quite com­mon. Divers will of­ten put their symp­toms down to a va­ri­ety of other things,

af­ter my last dive, noth­ing could be done about it even if it was DCS.

But Dr Wong wasn’t buy­ing my de­nial. He wanted me to be at the chamber in 30 min­utes, ex­plain­ing that my symp­toms in­di­cated cere­bel­lar DCS, and that, un­treated, they could be per­ma­nent, and could even lead to ear­lyon­set Alzheimer’s and other neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­ders. That did it.

EV­I­DENCE OF BRAIN DAM­AGE

At the chamber I had to write down some per­sonal data. It was the first time I had writ­ten any­thing by hand since the trip and I found it ex­tremely hard to form the let­ters. Dr Wong ad­min­is­tered a Sharp­ened Romberg Test, check­ing my bal­ance. With one foot in front of the other, heel to toe, eyes closed and arms stretched out to the sides, I had to bal­ance for as long as I could. In that po­si­tion, my body shook – spas­modic, jerky mo­tions that let me bal­ance for all of 10 sec­onds. The se­rial seven test was next, count­ing down from 100 in sev­ens. I was al­lowed to use my fin­gers, but even then I couldn’t count back­wards.

It was fright­en­ing to see ev­i­dence of how im­paired my cere­bral func­tions re­ally were. There were no more ob­jec­tions. Dr Wong gave me a seda­tive and put me in the chamber.

Af­ter a USN Ta­ble 6 treat­ment, Dr Wong ad­min­is­tered the tests again; the re­sults were in­cred­i­ble, a mas­sive im­prove­ment.

DAN Asia-Pa­cific’s John Lipp­mann called me that night to see how I was, and was on con­fer­ence call with me and Dr Wong for my next few ses­sions. I had an­other treat­ment in the chamber the next day, a USN Ta­ble 5, and a fi­nal one two days later. John was call­ing to check up on me ev­ery day, some­times sev­eral times, con­stantly re­as­sur­ing.

For the next few months, I was tired a lot. I would have reg­u­lar spells of ex­treme ver­tigo, and a sen­sa­tion that I can only de­scribe as hav­ing a head full of damp, elec­tric bees – an un­pleas­ant buzzing sen­sa­tion. I would have to lie down with no stim­uli for 15 min­utes un­til it passed. Grad­u­ally th­ese episodes be­came less fre­quent and less se­vere. John Lipp­mann rec­om­mended I get tested for PFO, which I did. Un­for­tu­nately the test was in­con­clu­sive, but I plan on be­ing retested.

LAST­ING LESSONS

It is now al­most two-and-a-half years on, and my long-term mem­ory is not what it once was. I for­get how to spell words, tasks I have com­pleted, things peo­ple have told me. Thank God for spell check, cal­en­dars, and un­der­stand­ing bosses!

I could never have imag­ined that some­thing so sub­tle could end up be­ing some­thing so se­ri­ous. The whole episode taught me a num­ber of valu­able lessons:

1. De­nial is the most com­mon symp­tom of DCS

(thanks, John!).

2. Even if hy­per­baric treat­ment is de­layed, it can

still be ef­fec­tive.

3. DCS can be atyp­i­cal and even if it seems mi­nor, you should al­ways seek med­i­cal at­ten­tion and ad­vice.

But per­haps the big­gest lesson was the value of DAN Asia-Pa­cific. My DAN Asia-Pa­cific in­surance meant that they cov­ered the costs of my treat­ment im­me­di­ately; I didn’t have to pay and then claim it back. But more im­por­tantly, they were with me ev­ery step of the way, pro­vid­ing sup­port at a time when I needed it most.

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