Decompression sickness, which occurs when a diver ascends from a depth too fast, is a potentially fatal condition and one that divers are trained to and desperately work to avoid when coming back up from a dive. More commonly referred to as ‘the bends,’ it is an illness that arises due to a rapid release of nitrogen gas from the bloodstream caused by bubbles forming in the blood when a diver ascends too quickly to the surface of the ocean.

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According to the Daily Mail, four years ago Peruvian fisherman, Alejandro Ramos Martinez, fell victim to the bends after rose too rapidly after diving to catch seafloor creatures off of Peru’s coast in one of the deepest areas. However, Martinez’s case of decompression sickness was unique in that nitrogen got suck in balloon-like pods around his muscles.

While he’s lucky to be alive, the condition saw him suddenly gain more than 50 pounds and caused his body to swell up to twice his size. His almost fatal diving error cost him his job as he’s been required to undergo routine oxygen treatments in a pressurized chamber.

Even though his accident happened four years ago, doctors are still searching for ways to rid Alejandro of the excess nitrogen attached to his muscles. Martinez’s doctor at the hospital San Juan de Dios, Miguel Alarcon, revealed to the press that they’ve managed to reduce the nitrogen in his body by 30 percent. Alejandro is currently still undergoing oxygen treatments in a hyperbaric chamber to try and reduce the nitrogen in his body.

According to Cuarto Poder, surgery to remove nitrogen from Alejandro’s body has proven to be incredibly difficult because the nitrogen bags are attached to his flesh. Despite the treatment Martinez has received, he still suffers from constant pain alongside other symptoms of the disease.

Symptoms of decompression sickness can include swollen joints, mottled, itching skin, brain damage, paralysis, headaches, coughs, dizziness, loss of balance, and shortness of breath.

Watch the short video of Alejandro’s condition below.

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