Water, Serendipity & My Aquatic Savoir-faire

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Sarah Fischer
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Water has been an integral part of my life experiences from the time I learned to swim at nine months of age to the present where swimming has been a fundamental part of my physical therapy and rehabilitation for joint replacement surgeries. I associate my “water experiences” to becoming a champion competitive swimmer in the Northwest, to my acceptance at a prestigious university with a swim- ming grant-in-aid, to “buoying” my acceptance to medical school, to becoming a US Navy Undersea Medical Officer, to becoming the Medical Director of a world-wide recognized clinical hyperbaric medicine program and to stimulating my interest in generating more than 100 citations and posters on diving-related subjects. Why and how is a matter of luck, serendipity and being in the right place at the right time. This warrants recounting (i.e., how I got to be where I am) with respect to diving medicine.

The experiences are described in more-or-less chronological order beginning with sections about the formative years, college, medical school and post-graduate training, operational Navy activities and clinical hyperbaric medicine with concurrent ortho- paedic surgery and Navy Reserve SEAL team affiliations. Many of the experiences at the time seemed trivial and only at a later time did they become fully appreciated as my knowledge of diving medicine accrued. Some experiences, unfortunately, were associ- ated with deaths of divers. Others led to talks, posters, papers and worldwide travels for meetings and diving in exotic locations. Some articles are versions of similar sub- jects, but typically reflect new information, refinements and/or more sophistication as my knowledge of these subjects grew. Finally, the experiences have culminated in generating contributions to diving medicine such as on decompression science and a hypothesis why pain occurs in the bends, hazards of breath-hold diving, and disordered decompression. Serendipity played a role with making major decisions at “cross roads” in my life. A major cross road was whether to focus entirely on orthopaedic surgery or wear “two hats,” as the expression goes, that is hyperbaric/diving medicine shared with orthopaedic surgery. This text and the ensuing accounts reflect the water-related “hat” of my professional life. Some of the information including personal experiences has been reported in one form or another in Diving Science...Revisited; but is repeated for completeness sake.

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Complementary Selections Introduction.

The Complementary Selections span the time frame from my 1971 mammalian diving paper to a yet-to-be-published writing on pain causes associated with diving. In between are papers on Decompression Science and Disordered Decompression. This latter paper is particularly noteworthy since it explains why decompression sickness occurs at the sites it does—something not well elaborated in the diving medicine literature.

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