State hyperbaric center may open in Feb.
Divers hit with potentially fatal decompression sickness won't have access to the state's hyperbaric treatment center through next February.
HONOLULU - For many, diving below the ocean's surface brings on a sense of serenity.
"Like floating in space, it's inter space for people that are here on earth, it's like another world. As soon as we get underwater or blowing bubbles, it's pure pleasure," Stephen Macy, Waikiki Dive Center said.
But sheer bliss can quickly turn tragic, instructors from the Waikiki Dive Center say divers can run into trouble in the blink of an eye.
"We get a build up of nitrogen when we go diving because you're breathing compressed air inside of tanks so if you don't come up slow enough, that nitrogen doesn't have a chance to dissolve, that's basically what gives us decompression sickness," Elizabeth Corey, instructor at the Waikiki Dive Center said.
The condition, also known as the Bends, is best treated in a hyperbaric chamber where air pressure is increased three times.
But a shortage of doctors at the state's Hyperbaric Treatment Center has kept it closed since October.
It left many in the diving community on edge.
"Having the Benz can cause permanent damage and even paralysis and some other problems. In order to get the treatment and go to the chamber, it can save a life and save a person from serious injury," Macy said.
The University of Hawaii says the center will reopen at Kuakini Medical Center after physicians undergo training next month.
It's set to undergo a $1.5 million renovation.
In the meantime, divers hit with the sickness are advised to seek treatment at the nearest emergency room.