DAN Intern: Christa Landowski

My DAN research internship was an experience that I will never forget. It took place in Stromness, Orkney in Scotland. The Orkney Islands form a natural harbor called Scapa Flow, and there are several World War I shipwrecks there. It is a wreck diver's paradise. The internship involved two main objectives: collect data for Project Dive Exploration and learn as much about hyperbaric medicine as I could. There was no structured schedule for either of these goals, except for the regular times when divers arrived at the beginning of their diving trips and when they departed.

The divers typically arrived on a Saturday afternoon, and I would find them getting settled on the diving boats before they would begin diving in Scapa Flow the following day. I would ask them to participate in Project Dive Exploration, and the positive response I received was astounding. Many divers were happy to be a part of the research. I gave them Sensus Pro tags to wear on their diving equipment, which record time and depth. I also gave them a log to complete with basic details of their dives. On Friday afternoons, after the divers finished their final dives of the week, I collected the Sensus Pro tags and asked them to complete a short report at least 48 hours later.

Unfortunately, there were a few cases of decompression illness suffered by Scapa Flow divers while I was there. However these events became learning opportunities and the divers remained in good spirits throughout the hyperbaric oxygen treatment, which often lasted more than five and a half hours. I saw how the hyperbaric chamber worked from the control panel just outside the chamber, as well as how the built-in breathing system functioned. I learned how to be a tender to patients who were treated in the hyperbaric chamber and I was able to tend to stable patients receiving treatments. It was the best hands-on experience I could get.

I was in Orkney for more than four months, and besides taking a few days to backpack on the island of Hoy, I didn't take a day off of work. There was no need. I loved the work I was doing. Nearly every day I was able to talk to divers, and I spent quite a bit of time on the diving boats in Stromness. I was even able to do some diving myself and I am a better diver because of it.

Leaving Orkney at the end of the internship was difficult. I loved the work I was doing and I learned so much, and I met many new friends there. I had an excellent mentor in Orkney who taught me a lot about hyperbaric oxygen therapy. I had grown close to the family I lived with and I was able to work with skilled dive boat skippers who were a pure joy to be around. My DAN research internship allowed me to play a unique role in the diving community, and I am grateful for it.

DAN Internships