Friday, May 15, 2009

Life in a Torpedo Tube AKA Hyperbaric Chamber

This was my seventh afternoon in a clear plastic tube. It could go on for as long as three months. I think I have already gone through the “getting used to it” stage and am getting bored with it. They roll you into this tube exactly the way they do in submarine movies when the bridge gives the order “Load tubes One and Two”. For hours the first “dive” I worried that someone would say “Fire One, Fire Two”!

Actually, the nurses do use dive jargon. For instance, they refer to a treatment session as a dive. The pressure you are subjected to is expressed in the equivalent number of feet under water. For example, I am under the pressure you would feel at 33 feet below water. When you are snuggly locked in the tube and can’t hear anything outside, they signal that they are starting to raise the pressure by signaling with the hands that you are going down. When, at the end of a dive, they signal with an upward motion, it means the pressure is starting down toward normal.

These times of changing pressure are the only times when there is a physical reaction to the dive. You are busy popping your ears by swallowing or taking a sip of water and swallowing or whatever works for you. If you have flown, you know about pressure changes. In my case, it takes about fifteen minutes for the pressure to get up to the treatment level and about the same time to reverse the process. I am taken to a pressure equivalent to 33 feet under water and held there for 110 minutes. Other folks go deeper for longer times. Doctor’s choice.

I guess everyone’s concern is claustrophobia. The concern intensifies when you ask, “Can I get out any time I want to?” The answer is, “Sure, but remember it takes fifteen minutes to return the pressure to normal and we can’t open the hatch until then.” But don’t worry. Everything to alleviate you concern has been thought of. The transparent tube is a big help. They promise that someone is always in the room with you. Then there are very large curved mirrors that allow you to see the whole room and everyone in it. If you rap on the tube, a nurse will pick up a phone and you can chat with her. She will reassure you all is well. Also large, school room clocks are visible so you know how long you have to go. A separate TV with DVD and tape player is clearly visible for each chamber with sound piped in to you.

There is no way to make a fashion statement in a hyperbaric session. On arrival you must be free of any antiperspirant, lotions, after shave, any jewelry, false teeth, and most important for women – no perfume nor make-up of any type.. As the nurses insist, you must be as God made you. You must change clothes, wearing nothing of your own, but just special hospital scrubs. No books, newspapers, watches, iPods, no cellphones, no nothing can go in with you

During your time in a chamber (tube) everyday air is replaced by 100% oxygen. This presents a very real fire danger and explains the restrictions on what can be on your skin or what can go in the chamber with you (nothing). To emphasize the point, a chamber blew up at a clinic recently with loss of life. Don’t cheat!

So what have I been doing for two and a half hours everyday? Well, I watch DVDs and television, I sleep a little, and I think a lot. You know in normal life we seldom have the freedom to think. Previously, cross-country trains were my favorite think places.

All this for a little bitty wound that does not want to heal.

1 comment:

Archana said...

Wow - all this sounds so futuristic - and a little bit scary too! Get well soon!