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FOR CLOSE TO 40 years the Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory (DBML) has been quietly helping to treat hundreds of persons with scuba diving injuries, and that task just got a whole lot easier with the acquisition of a new state-of-the-art hyperbaric chamber.

This chamber - the only functional one on the island - is used to treat decompression sickness (DCS), also known as "the Bends". The illness usually manifests itself within 24 to 48 hrs after surfacing, when for example the diver has returned too quickly to the surface, not allowing enough time for the nitrogen accumulated in the tissues during the dive to be expelled slowly from the body through the lungs. The nitrogen forms bubbles in the bloodstream or nerve tissues and, without prompt treatment these bubbles can block blood vessels or press on nerves and cause a wide range of symptoms that can lead to unconsciousness and death.

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