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Going deep sea diving is not the most thrilling prospect. I have seen the movies like Deep Blue Sea, with one of my favorite actors Samuel L. Jackson, where people journeyed deep below the ocean and something horrific happened to them--like killer jellyfish and whatnot.
Each day, however, I experienced a dive of over 30 feet below sea-level in a 100 % oxygen-rich atmosphere. My reason for being in this simulated dive had nothing to do with imaginary monsters, but the real ones of open wounds.
This environment of extreme conditions aids in stimulating the reduction of healing time for wounds and related impairments such as bone mending,
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy consists of breathing pure oxygen in a room or tube for a doctor-determined period of minutes (in my case 90 minutes) for a particular number of days with a certain level of pressure in terms of sea-level.
I had 40 days of diving, as we called it, at 30 feet below sea level twice an open wound.
It is a conventional treatment for people with the bends or decompression sickness after diving in deep water and surfacing too quickly. With the bends, nitrogen that was absorbed by the body becomes little gas bubbles as the pressure drops when a diver surfaces improperly, which is why divers pace themselves when surfacing.
In a hyperbaric chamber or tube, the simulated dive allows for nitrogen to enter the tissue as if going under water. The purpose of the simulation is not to nitrogenate the body, though that occurs; but to oxygenate it.
The lungs' capacity to absorb oxygen increases under pressure helping to increase the amount of oxygen to the blood and the cells of the body. With this added boost of oxygen to the cells, it promotes healing for areas that may not heal safely on their own, especially for patients like me who have diabetes.
People with diabetes tend to heal slowly making it easier for infection to set in. The Hyperbaric Tube that I lived in for 90 minutes 5 times a week for several weeks aided in speeding up my recovery.
What to Expect
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy according to the Mayo Clinic is a common and useful therapy where
the air pressure is increased to three times higher than normal air pressure. Under these conditions, your lungs can gather more oxygen than would be possible breathing pure oxygen at normal air pressure.
Your blood carries this oxygen throughout your body. This helps fight bacteria and stimulate the release of substances called growth factors and stem cells, which promote healing. (Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, para. 1,2)
Patents can expect to go to a facility in the hospital or a stand-alone facility. I went to a facility on the hospital grounds. In fact, the photos in this article are of my visits to the facility, all of them. The chambers themselves can be a room with the capacity to house many patients or just a tube, which is what the photos capture of my experiences.
Skinny Deep Diving
The atmosphere inside the tube was 100 % oxygen, so no smoking, please!
Before I was allowed in the tube each day, staff asked a series of questions for my safety. The last thing the technicians wanted was to have an emergency while I was in the tank. I had to make sure that any item of clothing I had on my person could not hold static electricity. To make sure that was the case, I did not wear my own clothing. Stripping to the buff, the staff provided a blue gown for me to wear that felt like a high thread-count bed sheet. Staff also provide pillows and sheets to give some added coverage and comfort.
What to Leave and Bring to the Dive
Do not have electronics of any kind or hair items that could cause a spark while in the tank. A spark in the oxygen-rich atmosphere would have been like lighting a match and throwing it into a gas-filled room. No trinkets, watches, or cell phones can go in the tank for fire hazards.
The nurses and technicians told me not to wear oils or lotions on my skin or in my hair because if a spark occurred the oil could act as an accelerant.
I was also grounded by a wire that canceled out and static build up in my body since all life carries an electric charge. The ground is a safety measure just in case electricity originated in the tank.
Do bring a water bottle and an empty bladder. Depending on how long the dive last, it can be a problem if you get thirsty of your bladder is exploding. Just like diving in the deep sea, it takes time to get the depth necessary for healing and time to come out of it.
The Mayo Clinic assures that "Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is generally a safe procedure. Complications are rare. But this treatment does carry some risk" (Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy). With any procedure, there is some risk that it could go wrong.
The following is a list of potential risks:
- Temporary nearsightedness caused by temporary eye lens changes
- Middle ear injuries, including leaking fluid and eardrum rupture, due to increased air pressure
- Lung collapse caused by air pressure changes
- Seizures as a result of too much oxygen (oxygen toxicity) in your central nervous system
- In certain circumstances, fire — due to the oxygen-rich environment of the treatment chamber
The risks are serious and the staff will be ever present to prevent anything to happen that can be avoided. One of the risk factors occurred during my treatment. Can you guess which one it is before you read the next paragraph?
As with any deep sea dive, even the simulated ones in the chamber, a mask is provided with pure oxygen to breathe. It is important to pace breathing at an even and steady rate to avoid too much oxygenation to the brain which can cause a seizure. Learning that the hard way, I took several deep breaths on one visit just to see what would happen and ended up having a seizure.
The most frightening part of the experience is that it took about five minutes for the staff to bring me to normal pressure before they could get me out of the tube! The nurse who saw my seizure stood by my side and comforted me the entire time through the speaker system built into the machine to communicate with me. There is such care to make sure that nothing happens to the patients and the nurses are some of the kindest and most professional care providers trained to provide psychological stability in stressful situations.
Other than having a seizure, I entertained myself by watching TV. The nurse would set the television to the channel I asked (TBS) and let it play for the 90 minutes I was immersed in pressure.
It may not be common for the patients at all facilities to have the option of viewing Television. I took a picture of what I saw before the chamber was closed below.
It was not the best view, but the sound was great and helped to pass the time while I healed. This therapy helped me on two different occasions and I highly recommend it if the need ever arises to use it. My foot is completely healed and you would never be able to tell that it was an open wound.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, (2018), Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/hyperbaric-oxygen-therapy/about/pac-20394380
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2018 Rodric Anthony
Rodric Anthony (author) from Surprise, Arizona on October 14, 2018:
Thanks for reading Bronswen. You are welcome. I am glad that I used the chamber. I had to remove the photo of my wound because it was so graphic, I may place a link to it so that people who want to see what it was and what it became may know.
Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on October 14, 2018:
This was such an interesting article. I have a distant cousin who works with a hyperbaric machine in another state and I've often wondered what he did, thinking only of divers. Now I know its a very important work indeed. Thank you for your description of your experience.
Rodric Anthony (author) from Surprise, Arizona on October 04, 2018:
Thanks for reading Eric. The hyperbaric treatment could be used for the treating of tissue damage after radiotherapy cancer treatments but there is no conclusive proof that it would hurt. I think it would hurt to use the treatment for cancer because the cancer cells need oxygen to exist too. Giving them extra oxygen would make them thrive in my opinion. Current studies do not support what I am saying, but they do not deny it either. This link might shed some light: https://www.cancercenter.com/discussions/blog/bust...
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 03, 2018:
Very interesting Rodric. Way back we did sensory deprivation studies. I was just wondering how this might aid in different diseases like cancer.