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STAR Team forms “unique relationship” with Syracuse doctors

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As bad as it could have been, a training accident for Jefferson County’s STAR Team in April has produced a new relationship that team dive commander Mark A. Knowles says is unique in the state.

Three doctors at Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, who specialize in hyperbaric medicine are now on board with the Special Tactics and Rescue Team, and participated Tuesday in dive training at Cape Vincent with the county unit.

“They came to see us train, to get to know us and to learn what we do,” said Mr. Knowles, the last remaining charter member of the 27-year-old county group consisting of nine volunteers. The physicians, doctors Marvin Heyboer, Monica Morgan and Shane Jennings, will take turns being on call if their services are needed by STAR when it goes out on rescue missions, he said.

“If we have an emergency, they are going to be a resource for treatment,” he said.

Hyperbaric medicine deals with gravity greater than that of cerebrospinal fluid, according to Webster’s dictionary. In the case of underwater diving, it pertains to the bends, or decompression sickness, which can be fatal.

Mr. Knowles said STAR Team divers were training in water reaching a depth of 60 feet when one of the team members, William Butler, was stricken and suffered a collapsed lung. He was rescued and rushed to Upstate, where he was treated successfully. Mr. Butler remains a team member today.

While Mr. Butler was being treated, Dr. Heyboer, who is manager of the hospital’s hyperbaric medicine program, asked STAR members about what they do, Mr. Knowles said.

“We weren’t aware of their capabilities in this field, and vice versa, they weren’t aware of our capabilities,” he said.

For instance the team, thanks to veteran north country diver Moe Hunt, has had for nearly three years a hyperbaric chamber, which is used to treat the affected diver.

With that conversation, the doctors “offered from the get-go to become involved with us,” Mr. Knowles said.

The STAR team is probably the busiest unit of its kind in the state, he said, “and we have the greatest risks.”

Mr. Knowles added that, with Upstate being a teaching hospital, “they can learn more from us.”

STAR members at Tuesday’s session included, besides Mr. Knowles, William Gould, R.J. Ward, Christian Hughes and Matthew Shoen.

STAR also works closely with the New York State Police dive team, Mr. Knowles said.




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