As a toddler, Alex fell into his family’s Florida swimming pool and nearly drowned. The accident left him brain damaged, but a new treatment offered in Los Altos has given his family hope.
Now 4, Alex (name changed for privacy) recently received 40 hours of hyperbaric oxygen therapy at Bay Area Hyperbarics, located at 4856 El Camino Real.
The treatment gained prominence after it helped Eden Carlson, another child who nearly drowned in 2016. According to news reports, Eden experienced marked improvement after undergoing hyperbaric oxygen therapy earlier this year at the LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine and the University of North Dakota School of Medicine.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy requires the patient to breathe pure oxygen through a pressurized tube or in a sealed room, both called hyperbaric chambers, in which increased air pressure will drive oxygen throughout the body.
Jess Ward, Bay Area Hyperbarics’ clinic coordinator, said such therapy can reduce swelling from injuries to the brain and other body parts, as well as treat infections and heal wounds – including those caused by diabetes and radiation.
Lisa St. John founded the clinic in 1998. A philanthropist with a master’s degree in health policy and management from Harvard University, St. John provided Alex’s treatments free of charge. Company outreach physician Scott D. Sherr, M.D., donated his services to Alex as well.
Alex’s mother, Susan, told Ward during an exit interview that Alex is more vocal, sitting up better and more responsive since completing the treatments Dec. 8.
“He’s more stable when I hold him. If I’m in another place in the room and call out his name, he tracks my voice, ” Susan said, adding that Alex now can motion with a hand or a finger and has tried to move his arms a little, too.
Given the effectiveness of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, the Department of Veterans Affairs recently started allowing vets to use it for post-concussion syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder, Ward said.
Football players also can benefit from hyperbaric oxygen therapy, according to David Roberts, senior certified hyperbaric technologist and safety director of Bay Area Hyperbarics.
“We do get some professional football players through here,” he said. “We’ve heard trainers say that our therapy can get a football player back to the field 20 percent faster.”
Roberts’ duties include ensuring that the hyperbaric chambers are running safely and dictating what is restricted from going into the machines along with patients. Cellphones are not allowed, and even paper is forbidden. The patient must wear all-cotton clothes without snaps or zippers.
To keep the patient from getting bored during therapy, the clinic has a TV screen near the hyperbaric chamber’s clear cover or a window, through which the patient can watch a movie.
The patient inside the hyperbaric chamber may feel changes similar to what people experience as they drive through the mountains due to the increase or decrease in altitude, according to Los Altos native Shelley Siegel Goldseger, who said she received the therapy to heal from a surgery incision and now does public outreach for Bay Area Hyperbarics.
For more information, call Goldseger at (408) 356-7438 or visit bayareahyperbarics.com
Shelley Siegel Goldseger, MPH, contributed to this report.