Behind the Scenes at DDRC – Comex Chambers
Hyperbaric chambers aren’t something you see all too often, so we thought we’d show you around some of our facilities here at DDRC Healthcare! In total we have four hyperbaric chambers, and below you can learn some more about them.
Figure A: DDRC’s founder Maurice Cross stood in front of the three Comex chambers at the original facility in Fort Bovisand.
Our two smaller multi-place chambers were originally used in the North Sea as part of a saturation diving system, aboard the Diving Support Vessel Oregis. Three chambers were donated to DDRC by Comex, a company that specialises in deep diving research and mixed gas diving, and they were installed at our original facility in Fort Bovisand. When DDRC moved to Plymouth Science Park we took two of the chambers with us, and the third was retired and now lies in Chepstow Quarry.
Figure B: The same Comex chamber now sat at our facility in Plymouth Science Park, no longer painted cherry red!
Our Comex chambers now sit one atop of the other; one is used for treatment and research, and the other for training courses. You can just about see the underside of the top chamber in the above photo. The maximum working depth of these chambers is 282msw but our routine dives for treating patients are most often to either 18msw or 30msw. The chamber has small portholes that are made from acrylic, and are 65mm thick to withstand the pressure.
The narrow pipe jutting out in the centre of Figure B is the chamber’s medical lock. This is what we use to send small items in and out of the chamber, such as medicine, equipment, and food – or if we’re training, we might get sent sweets!
Figure C: An attendant in the entry lock for scale.
Figure D: Looking into the main lock of the chamber
Both chambers have two compartments inside – a main lock, and an entry lock. On the right-hand side of Figure B is the entrance to the chamber’s main lock. At the opposite end there is an identical door which opens into the far smaller entry lock. The entry lock is used to allow people in and out of the chamber whilst the main lock is under pressure – for example a doctor or additional attendant. Despite its small size there is space in the entry lock for a sink, toilet and shower! The main lock of the chamber has a volume of 8 cubic metres, and the entry lock is 3 cubic metres.
Figure E: The control panel for both Comex chambers
On Figure D to the left you can look inside the Comex Chamber's main lock – this very small port is how we get in and out of this chamber. Despite the small size, this chamber is designed for multiple people. For commercial diving systems, it would have four bunk beds attached to the walls; now we have one patient bed, a chair and a small fold-down stool so that three people could be inside during a treatment if needed. Understandably, the Comex is not used for any patients that may struggle to get in and out of the door.