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May 2011    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 37, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Bret Gilliam Chimes in on an “Inexcusable” Error

from the May, 2011 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The "divemaster rant" article in the April issue is quite good. However, one comment about the diver who surfaced with omitted decompression and the computer had gone into "error" or "missed deco" warnings. This is, basically, inexcusable by the diver. Even if the diver ran out of breathing gas, he should have used the vessel's hang tank or sought out another diver to complete the deco. Many computer models will not tell you how much deco was omitted, leaving the poor divemaster with no real idea of what the magnitude of the omission really was. It could have been a couple of minutes, or maybe much more. This then becomes problematic.

Personally, I would put the diver back in at a depth of 30 feet for 10 minutes, 20 feet for 20 minutes, and 10 feet for 30 minutes. That schedule would almost certainly clear any protocol for missed stops. Then I'd mask the diver with pure oxygen by demand mask for one hour at the surface, while running a neurological exam and observing for signs and symptoms of decompression sickness. If none was present, I'd sit him down for 24 hours and then let him resume diving when his computer cleared.

If symptoms did manifest (and the diver should be checked every hour for the next four to six hours), I'd continue oxygen administration without interruption, and evacuate to a chamber for evaluation and treatment. If a remote site made evacuation a non-option, I'd use an in-water recompression protocol as long as the diver was conscious and responsive. You also need an in-water tender throughout the process, but the tenders can trade off during the treatment. Post-treatment would then require another two hours of surface oxygen breathing and complete diving shutdown, but no evacuation.

- - Bret Gilliam

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