The Woman from Atlantis
Work over winter had been somewhat sporadic. I was enjoying the freedom of locum work, being able to wherever, whenever I pleased but financially it was tough.
In May I was offered a trip on the Boka Atlantis. It was a huge dive vessel and I was back in my comfort zone, as medical cover for not only the crew but the divers in saturation too.
They were diving and living at depths around 100 metres. When not doing ‘bell runs’ they live in cramped conditions in the saturation chambers and their every move is monitored. Food is ‘blown in’ through the hatch and even the toilets are flushed for them by the Life Support Supervisors.
They breathe high percentages of helium in a mix called heliox and talking to them on the comms is like communicating with a very high-pitched Donald Duck.
Luckily, I speak helium so communicating with them is fairly straightforward.
Things can manifest quickly at over 10 atmospheres of pressure and their health and hygiene is taken very seriously.
I do their medicals before they go into the chamber for up to 28 days and again when they come out to make sure all is well.
In addition to this, I manage the day to day running of the hospital on board and run training sessions weekly for both the first aid team and the divers covering all sorts from cannulation, Advanced Life Support and catheterisation to basic first aid and stretcher drills for the marine crew.
It is a busy friendly vessel and it looked like I would be spending the foreseeable future on board.
To get a feel for what it is like for divers on board a DSV (Diving Support Vessel) the documentary film 'Last Breath' is a true story about a saturation diver's brush with death when it all went a bit wrong on the DSV Topaz. Available now on Netflix.
Some of the guys in the film now work on the Atlantis and it really does bring it home that this is a serious game we are in out there.