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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Ups and Downs, and a Few Bends

My day started with a trip to the medical clinic located at Anthony's Key Resort (AKR), which not only services guests, but also members of the community. Because the public health system is limited in what it can provide--plus, the hospital is subject to frequent power outages--AKR's owner, Julio Gallindo Sr., founded the clinic at the resort. Unlike the hospital in Roatan, the power is on 24/7 at AKR, which is like its own town, complete with its own water treatment facility and power plant.

Dependability is the key, especially when you're suffering from the bends and require treatment in the property's hyperbaric chamber.

Luckily, I didn't require that kind of treatment.

Instead, I was being treated for a inflamed eustachian tube. On a severity scale of 1 to 5 (with the latter indicating a perforation), I am somewhere between a 4 and 5, the doctor tells me. He gives me an anti-inflammatory and a decongestant. And now for the bad news, he says: "No diving for the rest of your stay." That means no night dive tonight.

I suppose it could have been a lot worse. After all, the hyperbaric chamber was actually in use by some unlucky fellow as I sat in the waiting room. The chamber itself is the centerpiece of the room. The man inside is displayed on a monitor that sits on top of the apparatus. The technician administering the oxygen to the patient explained that the chamber is used nearly 120 times a year, but seldom is it needed by recreational divers (which account for maybe 20 a year).

Instead, commercial fisherman--like this man--risk their lives every day in order to make a living doing nearly 15 deep dives a day to retrieve lobster from the sea floor. Many don't have any problems for years, but eventually, their practices get the better of them, and they require treatment for decompression sickness. And for some of these guys, going to the hyperbaric chamber is like going to the bar after a hard days work.

For the next 12 days, this man will have to suck pure oxygen for a couple hours a day before he will be allowed back in the water.

I, on the other hand, will still have the opportunity to snorkel with the dolphins.

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