Diving related illnesses in Cayman Brac will be quicker and easier to treat in just a couple of months’ time when a recompression chamber should be operational on the island.
This week it was having electricity connected to it, noted Managing Director of Cayman Hyperbaric Services John Elliott, who himself has been based in Cayman Brac since June 2006.
‘We hope that by the time we’ve commissioned it and trained the team that we can take patients there by 1 January,’ Mr. Elliott said of the Cayman Brac chamber.
The recompression chamber was brought onto Cayman Brac by Cayman Hyperbaric Services in November 2006. It has taken until now for the company to build a facility to house the chamber and prepare it for commissioning due to circumstances beyond their control, Mr. Elliott said.
Cayman Hyperbaric Services had an extension built onto the east end of the Faith Hospital in Cayman Brac for the hyperbaric unit.
The chamber is a two-lock multi-place chamber, a smaller version of the one operating at the George Town Hospital on Grand Cayman. That chamber is also run by Cayman Hyperbaric Services
Mr. Elliott explained that the Grand Cayman chamber is a two-man chamber, although on occasion, and at a stretch, four people have been treated in it. Similarly, while the Cayman Brac chamber is a one-man chamber it could potentially take two people, although not so comfortably.
‘Our feeling was that it prevents diving patients from the Sister Islands having to fly to Grand Cayman,’ he said.
He noted that flying patients with decompression sickness or the bends as it is often referred makes it worse for patients before they get treated.
While Little Cayman divers will probably be taken for treatment to Cayman Brac rather than being taken to Grand Cayman, once the chamber is operating on the Brac, this decision would be made considering many complicating factors, Mr. Elliott said.
All dive accident patients are now referred to the recompression chamber on Grand Cayman. Cayman Hyperbaric Services’ team of 30 qualified operators and attendants operate the Grand Cayman chamber, which is available 24/7 for diving emergencies.
The British Sub Aqua Club originally brought the chamber to Grand Cayman in 1972.
This year is a celebration of 35 years of service to the diving community, Mr. Elliott said.
The chamber in Grand Cayman deals with from 70 to 80 diving patients a year, Mr. Elliott said, and until the chamber in the Brac is fully operational, patients will continue to be referred to the chamber at the George Town Hospital in Grand Cayman.
But it’s not just diving related illness the sealed chamber can help. There are 13 approved indications for hyperbaric oxygen therapy. ‘In addition to diving related illness we have treated cases of carbon monoxide poisoning, gas gangrene, non-healing wounds, healing of skin grafts,’ he explained.
Mr. Elliott said a recompression chamber is not essential for a diving destination; it must be a comfort to know it is available for divers. ‘Otherwise it would mean a costly air ambulance to the nearest facility,’ he said.
As most of Cayman Hyperbaric Services’ patients tend to be Americans, Miami would be the nearest location of a hyperbaric unit, although there are several other chambers around the Caribbean, he said.
Cayman Hyperbaric Services can be contacted by email at [email protected] or by telephone 949 8600 or 926 4295.