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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy - Self Treatment

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The Complete Story

my neck down - just barely able to move my hands and that capability was going fast! Bad hair day!

After seven back-to-back, double extended Table Six’s (over 40 hrs total in that hot little chamber lying on a slab of plywood), I had recovered some upper body strength with all kinds of sensory deficits and an ability to stand only if held up. Consultation with DAN, which had been on-going, concluded it was time to get other specialty capabilities such as imaging, neuro, pulmonary, cardiac, etc., none of which was available on Bonaire. At 7:00pm the 28th, I agreed with DAN that I would go to Mercy hospital in Miami for a number of reasons which I will not enumerate for the sake of brevity. DAN told me to be on the tarmac at 9:00 am the next morning. Waiting for me there was a Citation 5 into which I was loaded on a stretcher and wired for sound, with an E/R physician, an E/R surgical nurse, my wife, and Pam. We flew to Miami pressurized to sea level. There we were met by a waiting ambulance that took us to the E/R at Mercy hospital where Dr. Ivan Montoya was waiting for me (one helluva fantastic physician). It took no more than 10 minutes to sterilize me and change my catheter, clean a little salt off me, ask a few questions, and wheel me off to another chamber. Dick had sent a hand-written discharge report with me for the Miami doctors and had talked by telephone with Ivan. I had already been assigned a team of specialists. During the next two+ weeks, I had another twenty-odd chamber treatments of different schedules and every test known to mankind except a mammogram and a pap smear! The trans-esophagus echo cardiogram was the worst. They stick about an 18" wand down your throat to view your heart chambers. You have to be awake to swallow the wand. I gag easily, so it was hell for me! I retched for 30 minutes while that wand was down my throat as they looked for any opening between chambers. Also I had six+ hours of physical and occupational therapy every day. It was 13 days before they induced my first bowel movement. I won’t describe it. It was horrible! I have never felt so helpless and so humiliated in my life. I cried and sobbed like a baby. I really wanted to die. You can’t imagine what it’s like to be unable to pee or poop.

Approaching 30 chamber treatments, I reached pulmonary O2 toxicity. My lungs simply couldn’t take any more oxygen at any pressure. I had to terminate the HBOT so I was discharged. We flew home pressurized to sea level. Discharge diagnosis: DCS Type II; Multiple ischemic demyelination injuries to the spinal cord2; lesions too small to be detected by MRI and an ischemic demyelination lesion deep in the lower right frontal lobe white matter clearly detected by MRI. Cause: Unknown. Prognosis: Fair to good.  The Dr’s at Duke (DAN) referred to it as “Hit and Run DCS II in the form of a shower of microscopic bubbles.” They did a lengthy article in “Alert Diver” magazine (Nov.’97) using no names. At that point, I was an expert in self-catheterization (not so great a sport; masturbation would have been more fun).

However, with great effort and concentration, I could start urination at times, but I had no bladder sensations whatsoever. I had to discipline myself to drain my tank every few hours to preclude a bladder overfill which could be quite dangerous. I could stand alone and even take a few steps unaided, but I had to use a walker to ambulate. Bowel functions still had to be induced, and I had virtually no feelings in my upper body though I had regained most of the functions above my waist such as arm movement, hand movement, etc. still with major sensory deficits and significant weakness. I arrived home where a couple of my kids had put together a complete rehab gym in a large room next to my office. One of my daughters has a masters in OT. That very same day I dove into my rehab program with every ounce of energy, intensity and determination I could muster - 7 days/wk.  My daughter had already arranged for me to get under the care of a physiatrist (rehab specialist) at the Florida Spinal Rehab Institute and a neurologist as well as my personal physician, of course. I spent virtually every waking minute for 3 months working at my rehabilitation, taking time out only for meals and a little rest when I reached near exhaustion. By the latter part of August, I had regained proprioception such that I could stand on one foot with my eyes closed; I could walk on my own, and I could drive. I could ride my mountain bike 10 miles, and my bodily functions had improved considerably. You just cannot imagine the pure pleasure of peeing if you have never been married to a Foley catheter or had to self-catheterize!