Help With Decompression Illnes in Bali

How to handle decompression accident in Bali

We have already addressed the issues of decompression illness (DCI) in one of our previous blog articles, now we go into what to do if it happens to you. Read more here if you missed the previous article Decompression sickness and scuba diving. Do you know what to do in case (God forbid) you get the decompression illness while scuba diving? Who to call? Where to go? How much will it cost? Read our practical guide how to treat a decompression illness in Bali.

 

What is a decompression illness?

Let us quickly summarize what happens in a diver’s body when they get DCI. If let’s say a diver doesn’t respect the no-decompression limits, ascends too quickly or does not make a safety stop, their body might not be able to get rid of the accumulated nitrogen. There is then a chance bubbles may form in the blood stream and body tissues and in very serious cases this can lead to death. Symptoms usually occur shortly after the diving (1 – 5 hrs) and may come in various forms: tingling in the limbs, skin rash, physical weakness, disorientation, tiredness and headache.

What to do if you suspect a DCI

If you experience any of the above symptoms after the diving, we recommend you to do the following:

  • Inform your instructor/guide or the dive center staff immediately so they are able to apply first aid pure oxygen to help you feel better and help with recovery
  • Call your diving insurance company hotline. Their operator will go through a quick check-up with you and if suspecting DCI they will contact the Sanglah Hospital in Denpasar where they will have the hyperbaric chamber ready for you.
  • Without a delay get a taxi to get you to the hospital

How to get to the hospital in Bali for hyperbaric treatment

Sanglah hospital in Denpasar is a first class hospital and the only one in possession of a hyperbaric chamber. In the unpleasant case of no diving insurance, you might need to call the hospital yourself or ask the dive center to assist. Write down the hospital’s telephone number & address now:
 
Sanglah Hospital Denpasar
Jalan Diponegoro, Denpasar, Bali
Phone: +62 361 227 911
 
In case they don’t pick up the phone, don’t waste your time waiting and go there asap nonetheless.
The traffic in Bali can sometimes be a pain. Here are the estimated times to get to the hospital from main diving locations in Bali:

  • From Padangbai – 75min by car
  • From Tulamben – 155min by car
  • From Amed – 145min by car
  • From Sanur – 30min by car
  • From Nusa Penida – minimum 60min by boat to Sanur + 30 min by car
  • From Gili Islands – minimum 120min by speed boat to Sanur + 30min by car
  • From Lombok – minimum 165min by speed boat + 30min by car

View the Sanglah hospital location on Google maps+ The hospital itself has two wings – international and local one. To find the hyperbaric chamber you want to go to the local one. Follow the signs that say “hyperbaric treatment”. From the entrance they will lead you all the way to the chamber.

What is a hyperbaric chamber

After arriving at the hospital, the doctor will first examine you thoroughly for the signs and symptoms, check your balance, coordination, reflexes and more. They will then decide whether you need a hyperbaric chamber treatment. The hyperbaric chamber is basically a steel tank where the pressure is adjusted to the same pressure as what you would experience in 18 meters of depth. Depending on your condition you might need to spend several hours (usually 3 - 6hrs) in there with specially trained staff by your side. While inside you will breathe pure oxygen and will be closely monitored by specialists outside the chamber. One treatment is usually sufficient however you might need to stay in the hospital for observation for another day and of course abstain from diving for at least one month. The doctor in charge will give you all instructions as well as recommend when you can fly next.

Why diving insurance is important

If you have a DCI a proper diving insurance might literally save your life (or at least life savings). The sad truth is that without a proper diving insurance, the whole process of admission into the chamber will take much longer and the treatment itself will definitely cost you a couple of thousand US Dollars. In our years of experience with running a diving resort in Padangbai, we definitely recommend to have a DAN diving insurance. Divers Alert Network (DAN) is a global group of non-profit organizations. Founded in 1980 it has more then 400 000 members and is a global leader in promoting diving safety. They provide high-quality service and assistance to divers all over the world.

Types of diving insurance

If you dive only occasionally, you might want to opt in for a short term diving insurance for your holiday. DAN offers single trip insurance a 10-days (40USD) or 30-days (50USD). However more price-effective is the annual insurance. Based on your diving preferences you can choose from 3 insurance packages– Bronze (68 USD), Silver (98USD)and Gold (224USD). DAN offers more programs of course, including Family insurance and more. The above mentioned prices are informative. For more information go to www.daneurope.org
 
The difference in having a diving insurance is huge. As we already mentioned, without it, the hyperbaric treatment will cost you thousands of dollars that you will have to pay UPFRONT and out of your own pocket. On the other hand, you might save yourself a big headache with the DAN insurance because if you alert them of your condition on their hotline, they will take care of all communication with the hospital and by the time your arrive the Denpasar, the medical team and the chamber will be ready for you.

To summarize

We don’t wish anyone to experience a DCI or any other diving accident for that matter.
To have an amazing diving holiday in Bali, we recommend you to always:

  • dive well within your limits and respect the no decompression times
  • don’t exceed the safe ascent rate
  • always make a 3-minute safety stop in 5 meters
  • stay hydrated prior to, in between and after the dives
  • don’t party, drink excessively or work too hard prior to the day of the dives
  • and last but not least get a proper diving insurance! 
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