Dr. Goat : a dark story of solving bends!
“Well… I love moving in extra dimensions. Not just backwards and forwards, but up and down and around. And fins. I love swimming with fins — human feet are practically useless underwater. I love all the unique things you see on each dive. Millions of little aquatic soap operas playing out between all the creatures. And the silence. Well, it’s not really silent down there, but the roar of bubbles blocks any other sound…”
Diving is not just a mere sport or adventure activity, but is one of the most refreshing journey into the depths of the ocean as well as one’s soul. It’s basically the process of untangling the mysteries deep inside. Everyone loves diving just for the warmth of the blanket of the freezing water on top of us; the feeling is explainable, isn’t it ! Before finding out what is a goat doing in a topic related to diving, let’s find out what is bends.
The bends is a painful condition that occurs in scuba divers who ascend too quickly or in aviators flying at high altitudes. Also called decompression sickness, the bends results when bubbles from dissolved gases form in the blood or in tissues because of rapidly decreasing pressure.(those who have watched Jackie Chan and his adventures- an animated series can easily relate this situation- a childish reference though!) In 1905, the British navy appointed Scottish physiologist John Scott Haldane to solve this issue to save the lives of millions of soldiers.
He interviewed several divers, conducted scientific tests on pressure and its effects, studied the characteristics of the disease and investigated the previous records and formulated his theory .He went to any extent to solve this issue, once even tied himself and his colleague in a coffin and tested the effect of pressure(to shine like a sun, you have to burn like one!). He concluded that decompression sickness(bends) never occurred when a diver stayed above 33 feet! They first experimented on mice, rats, guinea-pigs and an old hen by placing them in a large experimental air tank, filling it with compressed air, then evacuating the air. The results were inconclusive since these smaller-bodied creatures exchanged gas more rapidly than humans.
The researchers considered alternatives such as monkeys, dogs and pigs. But these were either too small, difficult to obtain or had respiratory exchange rates far different from humans.Now came Dr.Goat. It’s respiratory exchange system is very similar to humans- almost 1.7 times that of an average adult diver. So they used 85 goats to test this condition in lab, group of eight goats in each tanks. Yes, sadly the results were very hurting as all the batches had the symptoms of bends and suffered in pain and died just like humans, but only one survived that underwent staged decompression- A staged decompression is interrupted by decompression stops at calculated depth intervals, but the entire ascent is actually part of the decompression and the ascent rate is critical to harmless elimination of inert gas. It was in this way that the researchers confirmed that those goats which were staged decompressed did not suffer from the bends. The surviving goat was adopted by the head,Lieutenant Damant as a pet.
Later these experiments were done in real life scenarios with humans ( Damant himself volunteered) and were successful. This became one of the most important discovery that helped the divers to discover more without any loss of life. Even though the process ended up dark, that small theory is saving millions of lives all around the world till date. Every single diver around the world is being saved by those innocent goats that gave us the idea of staged decompression.If this theory was not found, we would not have any underwater discoveries of mysteries, myths, treasures and adventures ( not even titanic!).
Maybe this is the reason we compare great people with G.O.A.T……………