Today we return to North Africa. Flying Officer Reynolds flew 25 missions above 40,000 feet over a single month. The German Ju 86’s flew at ever increasing altitudes as three out of the four available aircraft had been shot down by British Spitfires. The final Ju 86 flight was at nearly 50,000 ft and Reynolds was again in pursuit.
He had been at over 45,000 feet for over an hour and he was suffering from the effects of altitude:
“his whole cockpit, instrument panel, control column and perspex were thickly coated with ice; his body was racked with pain and his arms temporarily paralysed, and his eyesight also failing with weakness.” — John Frayn Turner. British Aircraft of the Second World War
Reynolds was probably suffering from “The Bends” or decompression illness. You may have encountered this condition in the context of diving but it is also well recognised in high altitude aviation.
Occasionally and ironically, tourists are diagnosed with decompression illness in Alice Springs. How is this possible you ask?
Well, they go diving in North Queensland and then fly to the Red Centre, the exposure to altitude soon after diving is enough to “Bend” them.
The relevance of decompression illness to anaesthesia may seem a little obscure. The body in decompression illness is simply behaving like a human vapouriser where nitrogen is the volatile agent.
BT_SQ 1.12 Describe the principles and safe operation of vaporisers
TRUE/FALSE Henry’s Law is relevant to vaporiser functioning
TRUE/FALSE The Aladin cassette vaporiser is an example of an injection vaporiser system
TRUE/FALSE Modern vaporisers use an electrical heating coil to compensate for the cooling caused by latent heat of vaporisation
TRUE/FALSE A plenum vaporiser is designed so that the gas leaving the bypass is fully saturated under normal conditions
TRUE/FALSE The Tec Mark 5 vaporiser is designed to be ‘tip resistant’
As an extra exercise, see if you can find or work out the properties of nitrogen and the circumstances that relate to it “vapourising” in the body at altitude (in the same the way you would think about an inhalational agent).