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Diver suffers from ‘the bends’ in Lake Michigan, taken to hospital in critical condition

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PARK RIDGE, Ill. – A 40-year-old diver was taken to the hospital in critical condition after suffering from decompression sickness on Lake Michigan, the Chicago Fire Department said Sunday.

Just after 11 a.m., rescue crews with the U.S. Coast Guard and a CFD Marine Unit rushed to the scene after receiving a distress call about a diver possibly suffering from decompression sickness, which is also known as "the bends."

Emergency crews picked the 40-year-old man up off the charter boat, and paramedics started working on him as they brought him in to Montrose Harbor.

Fire officials say the decision was made to transfer the diver to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge because they are equipped with a specialized hyperbaric chamber.

"There's a couple that operate in the city, this one operates full-time, so the decision was made to bring him [to Park Ridge] to be on the safe side," said Lt. Brian Otto, CFD Marine & Dive Operations.

Decompression sickness is caused by the formation of nitrogen gas bubbles inside the body, and can develop if divers ascend too quickly or stay at deep levels too long. The hyperbaric chamber delivers pure oxygen in a pressurized room to reverse its effects.

The victim was diving with a group on a recreational charter boat near a shipwreck about 18 miles east of Navy Pier before the distress call, according to CFD.

There's no word on his identity, or updated condition as of 5 p.m. Sunday.


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