A Clarendon fisherman was left partially paralyzed following the 7.7 magnitude earthquake which rocked Jamaica on Tuesday.
BUZZ understands that the fisherman was diving in waters near Rocky Point in Clarendon, when he became alarmed after he heard rumbling sounds and felt himself vibrating in the water – likely due to the quake.
The fisherman rose quickly to the surface and exited the water, after which he is reported to have started feeling pain.
The pain progressed, and the fisherman attempted to perform a self-administered decompression activity which resulted in the pain further progressing into numbness.
The numbness subsequently progressed into a complete loss of mobility.
The man was on Saturday (Feb 1) transported to the UWI Hyperbaric Treatment Facility (UWI-HTF) in Discovery Bay, St Ann where he is currently undergoing treatment.
Buzz reached out to the facility and was able to confirm that the man was receiving treatment at the chamber.
Chief Scientific Officer at the lab, Camilo Trench, noted that the fisherman was likely suffering from Decompression Sickness (DCS), known colloquially as the “bends”, which usually results from diving too long or too deep, or a combination of both.
“Decompression sickness is becoming more of a common thing,” revealed Trench, who went on to state that because of fish scarcity, fishermen were not only diving for longer but were also diving deeper.
“Serious over fishing is happening and it [the industry] is not policed enough,” said Trench who added that the number of fishermen in Jamaica dying or being paralyzed after experiencing the “bends” is increasing.
Although Trench could not disclose specifics with relation to the incident, he noted that it was likely that the fisherman dived between 80 -100 feet.
Trench said coming up from such a dive too quickly, probably panicking from the experience of the earthquake, was likely to be problematic.
“To make matters worse the industry is not regulated enough, most fisher divers have not received any formal training and do not need to provide proof of any diving certification to obtain a fishing licence from the fisheries division,” said Trench.
“Fishermen are allowed to dive with commercial spraying compressors,” added Trench who explained that in the absence of proper diving gear, fishermen were utilizing spraying compressors, similar to the ones that are used to spray furniture and cars.
While, Trench noted that the fisherman was responding well to treatment, a doctor at the facility said that the effects from the incident can in some instances be permanent.
“It is hard to gauge, the truth is not a lot of the fishermen return for follow-ups, but we do know that some amount of residual symptoms linger; in some instances, damage is severe like the loss of mobility entirely or you will see individuals walking with a limp,” said the doctor.
On average, UWI-HTF, or the Chamber at the UWI Discovery Bay Marine Lab as it sometimes called, has been treating at least one fisherman with DCS monthly.
The lab also receives approximately 3 calls per month regarding other fishermen with the illness who do not receive treatment because they cannot afford it or refuse the recommended treatment as their symptoms are not severe).
The UWI HTF is the only functional chamber in Jamaica where treatment is offered to fishermen at a subsidized costs of J$ 130K.