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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy - Self Treatment

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The Complete Story

Many sensory deficits remained throughout my body. I had slight feeling in my hands but none in my finger tips. I could stick a needle inch into my thigh and feel nothing. Ever thought about using a keyboard without feeling in your fingers?

August 29th. I had to attend a board of directors meeting in Atlanta for a large corporation in the process of a merger. I had attended all prior meetings by teleconference, but this particular meeting was critical and required my personal presence. I flew there pressurized at sea level. I had our pilots do this just to be on the safe side. Only one of the five HBO docs I conferred with said it would be safe to fly commercially pressurized at 8K ft which is roughly a 25% drop in ambient pressure (& therefore PPO2 ).  The other four flatly stated there was either an “unknown” or a “definite” element of substantial risk due to the nature of my injury. Shortly after arriving in Atlanta, I received notification of an emergency and needed to return immediately. The company plane had departed. The big question: Should I fly home commercially pressurized to 8K ft? I pondered all the questions. With great reluctance, I took the commercial flight home to be at my mother’s bedside who was not expected to live through the night. My gut said, “big mistake.” My presence could not save her life, but it was expected of me, and I did it.  When I got to the hospital about 1:30 am that night, my wife said I looked like a ghost, and I felt as if I were in shock - cold sweat and exhausted. I felt as if I had been shot at and missed and sh__ on and hit.  My mother lived another three years - and not because I was there.

Two days later, I could not walk at all and had a number of other serious neurological symptoms. I went to the E/R and was checked into the hospital under my neurologist. One more time for nearly two weeks ..... test after test after test and, of course, daily therapy. Diagnosis: Possible re-injury of some of the myelin tissue sheaths in my spinal cord; cause unknown. Could a one-hour 25% drop in ambient pressure have caused this? Could stress have caused it? Would it have happened anyway? No one knows. My neurologist and I conferred with all the “biggies” in the country: Barnes, Johns Hopkins, Linda Loma, Bethesda, National Health Institute; I won’t name them all, but we went the full gamut. Conclusion: Refer to a psychiatrist who would help me get adjusted to living as a paraplegic. My response: “Unacceptable.”

I concluded that if none of the doctors at all the major medical centers in this country could not help me recover, then I would resort back to the HBO Docs with whom I had made friends during the past several months. Two of them suggested I consider an experimental HBOT treatment regimen of a pressure of 1.5 ATA on 100% O2 for 1 hr/day, and both referred me to a couple of other HBO docs who were “on the leading” edge of HBO technology research. However, there was no experimental grant program being formed at that time. I checked with Baptist Hospital here. IF they treated me, it would cost a minimum of $550 per treatment for the standard 2X2 problem wound treatment with other patients. They would not treat my regimen. Their risk management people refused treatment of any kind. To add complications, I was turning 65 and going on Medicare. I decided to get my own chamber one way or another. “It’s your body, and you can do what you damn well please,” to quote one of the HBO Dr’s with whom I was working. All of my HBO consulting docs agreed and gave me overwhelming  ecouragement - and still do. 

Again, making a long story short, it’s not easy to get a chamber! After extensive efforts to get one, I finally had a portable, collapsible 2 ATA chamber made for me by a company in New York. While my chamber was being fabricated, the president of this company stopped his reliability test program and sent me his only prototype chamber the same day I talked with him. It arrived the next day. A neighbor carried it upstairs, and I put that chamber together by myself scooting around on my belly. That took two days.Fortunately, I had two O2 analyzers and all the necessary hoses and adapters among my gas mixing apparatus as well as a SCUBA compressor with more than 20 tanks I had for cave diving - perfect for chamber pressurization. I also had a source for unlimited ABO (Aviation Breathing Oxygen) for which I needed no Rx. A couple of USN chamber operators moon-lighted a few treatments to give Polly confidence in operating it, though I could give her verbal instructions as well as operate some of the controls from inside. I developed some log forms and wrote a detailed operating manual for her and others I trained as operators. We were in business. That was December, 1997. I had lost four precious months.  I have now had between 400 and 500 HBO treatments. I have my therapist, Donna, who has been