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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy - Self Treatment

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The Complete Story

community but it was common, and pure O2 was a standard in the deco procedures of our cave diving community. Frank Howard and I even went up to Terrytown, New York to Dr. Bill Hamilton’s home and engaged him to work with us in developing a “conservative” breathing mix catalog & philosophy for our ages which we incorporated into all our diving ... primarily for cave diving but for open water as well. It is well-known that some folks on Bonaire would not dive with me. I was a “pain in the ass on conservatism” dubbed a cynical nickname of "Mr. Conservative," and I allegedly went overboard on “being prepared.”  Thank God I was. Also, looking back 20/20, Polly and I were prepared at our home, and we did everything right under the circumstances first aide wise. We had a full ‘80 of O2 on hand, and Polly did exactly the right thing. However, I should have insisted the physician put me in the chamber immediately rather “observe” me for recurring neurological symptoms. I think he (and I) erred seriously. The immediate O2 at my home gave me temporary and very misleading recovery symptoms. With my experience, I should have known better and insisted on immediate chamber treatment rather than “observation.” Who knows how many myelin cells were damaged beyond repair in that time?  No one. My gut tells me that immediate chamber treatment would have changed my life. Point: If you have a “hit” and O2 relieves the symptoms, don’t think you are cured; stay on the O2 and get to a chamber!!

Concerning my “crash” after three months of substantial recovery? I should not have taken that commercial flight. My gut told me not to. I knew better, and I took the perceived risk only because I was expected to be at the bedside of my mother. I certainly could not have made the difference whether she lived or died. However, with 20/20 hindsight, I would have waited for the company plane to fly back pressurized at sea level. I do believe that flight did a lot of damage. Physicians can argue the science of it forever, and still do. The point is I believe it. I am living through it. That is why I am sharing it with you.  Had I not made those two mistakes, I believe I would be fully, 100% recovered today.

Another thing I learned is that determination and tenacity pays off when it comes to taking charge of your own medical care. It was shear determination and help from a few visionary physicians, my family, my therapist, and my cave dive buddies, Jeff Bozanic in particular, that paid off.  I took the initiative to seek out those visionary HBO physicians who have been helping guide me through this experimental treatment regimen. I also took the initiative to make contact with the president of the company that made my experimental chamber ( NOT FDA approved). Otherwise I would surely be confined to a wheel chair today. I also learned that DAN is essential for any diver. They helped me get through the air evacuations and initial medical bills even though I had excellent insurance.  DAN’s reaction times were unbelievable.  However, that insurance runs out in a year, and all the other stuff such as chamber, a therapist 3 days/wk for years, all the O2 I use, a substantial portion of the costs of all my medications, etc., are out of pocket and will continue so, probably for years. No telling how long this fight for more recovery will end - if ever.

Fortunately, we have been able to afford it. Many less fortunate could not. It has been extremely expensive, and that is a gross understatement. Those of you who know me personally, and many of you who don’t, will ask the $64 question. The answer is absolutely YES! I intend to dive again, and I intend to do that same dive again on Bonaire. However, it will NOT be on air. It will be on either EAN 65 or 100% O2, and I will hold the depth so the PPN2 will not exceed 0.8 ATA, and the PPO2 will not exceed 1.5 ATA to which I am well adapted. Also, I will either charter a corporate jet and fly to Bonaire pressurized to sea level or get there by surface transportation depending on the cost/time trade-offs. We sold our home there.  I have reluctantly accepted the fact that my in-water dive instruction days are over - both open water and cave diving.  My first love, underwater cave surveying is no more. Even at nearly age 70, Polly and I will still be able to enjoy shallow, underwater photography, God willing.  I hope my sharing this experience gives you a real sense of What it’s like to be really bent! You don’t want to try it! It can radically change the rest of your life. It necessitated my closing my consulting practice and resigning from all my boards which stopped all working income. I became unemployed and unemployable overnight! You don’t want to try that either! This has been quite a journey. There lies still a long road ahead, and I hope I can continue to travel that road with the same level of determination and optimism and continued recovery. If anyone would like more specifics, I would be happy to respond. My contact information is: Tel: 850-791-6991; Fax: 850-791-6990; Personal Email: jburge@cox.net.