Under the Sea – Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Ahhh the ocean; I can almost smell the salty air, feel the sand between my toes, and taste that margarita…almost. I’ve been below sea level 6 times in the last week, and that is as close to the ocean as I am likely to get anytime soon. I’ve finished 6 hyperbaric oxygen therapy sessions (HBOT), with only 34 to go. I don’t notice a difference yet, but Dr. Stapleton told me it might be 10-20 sessions before I notice much, and of course there is the chance that it wont help. Since I go 6 days a week, it is rather convenient that the Rocky Mountain Hyperbaric Institute is here in Louisville, and that I have so many wonderful friends willing to help drive me to and from therapy.

There are 5 chambers. Two mostly metal and 3 like the one on the right.

The first few sessions were a little strange. If a person had any tendency towards claustrophobia, it would be rough. My first impression was that of climbing into a space capsule, or maybe a tiny submarine. I have never done any scuba diving, but that is supposed to be the most similar experience, only you are in a chamber instead of in the water.  They don’t take me very deep, only to 30′ below sea level I think. The pressure is dropped over about 10 minutes, but the only notable sensation is pressure in the ears.  I suck on candy or chew gum, and swallow or open my mouth frequently to pop my ears, and that is it. Once I get to the appropriate “depth”, then I put on the oxygen hood and hang out for an hour. The point of the hood is to save costs. I could elect to not wear the hood, and they will simply fill the chamber with oxygen, but it will cost almost twice as much because they have to use so much oxygen to do this.

Trying on the oxygen hood. Wait, I thought I should never put a plastic bag over my head.

During the treatment, some patients watch movies, but my brain still doesn’t tolerate that sort of thing. I’ve been either listening to my audiobook (connected to the speakers), or just taking a nap. Then once the time is up, I take off the hood, and they bring me back up, once again clearing my ears. It is pretty simple really. There are a few rules – no jewelry, no makeup, lotion, hair products, nail polish, only the 100% cotton scrubs they provide, and nothing else can be taken into the chamber.

View inside the chamber. It is cozy.

Rather than wreck myself spending time explaining how HBOT is thought to help, I’m just going to put this link here. I think it is a relatively  good summary of one scientific study for those that want a little more information. The thought is that delivering oxygen at higher pressures allows higher concentrations of oxygen to be present in the brain, which facilitates healing, even long after the injury occurred.

Some of you may be asking why I waited this long to start treatment. This is a very easy answer – the price tag. The treatment is $5,000. That is a hefty cost for something with no guaranteed results. However, after the setbacks I had in November, we decided we had to try.  For 34 more treatments,  I’ll be spending some quality time under the sea, hoping Sebastian was right…

Darling it’s better
Down where it’s wetter
Take it from me
Up on the shore they work all day
Out in the sun they slave away
While we devotin’
Full time to floatin’
Under the sea

Now where did I leave my dinglehopper?

And now you will be singing that song all day. You’re welcome.



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