Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is the most recent experimental treatment I’ve tried to help with my Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS) and mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI).
After 65 “dives”, here is what I’ve learned.
Is it a miracle cure? No.
Is it a solution to all my limitations and problems? No.
Does it help? Yes. Definitely, it helps.
Some people I’ve talked to who have tried HBOT have had immediate, amazing results. Some just knew right away, during their first treatment, that it was going to help. That wasn’t me.
For me, the improvements I’ve experienced are more subtle, more delicate. Just like I have trouble describing exactly how my brain injury limits me in a million ways, I have trouble describing exactly how HBOT is helping. But it is. I was cautious coming to that conclusion – I’ve been disappointed again and again. But, after the first 25 treatments I couldn’t deny it anymore. HBOT is making a real and significant difference in my life.
For more details about my experience being inside a hyperbaric chamber, read my first HBOT post here: Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)
So let’s talk concrete impacts. How does HBOT help?
- If I’m down, I shift to neutral. If I’m neutral, I shift to feeling positive. On the surface, that seems like a little thing – why should it matter how I feel? But, it does. It is a big thing to feel good about my day, about what I’m able to do, about my future. Not only does it make my life more pleasant, but stacking one day of positivity and hope on top of another, day after day, helps me heal and become who I want to be.
- I have more energy. Sometimes, I’ll roll out of the tube and feel energized. I’ll feel energy running through my body and pushing me forward to do, act, live. That makes me so hopeful. Also, instead of having to nap every single day for 1-2 hours, I nap once or twice a week when I’m doing HBOT. I have the energy to do more things, think more thoughts, and more fully live my life. Subtly, the additional energy helps me create and hold on to my sense of self, which in turn makes me feel more confident and sure of my perceptions and decisions.
Perks Up Appetite
- Some might say – hey, that’s not a benefit! But to me, it is. A healthy animal has a healthy appetite. The end. My appetite dropped significantly since my head injuries, when my sense of taste and smell decreased. Now, I’m glad to feel hungry and desire food. After almost every HBOT session, I’m hungry. Eating is life-affirming and nourishing.
I’ve also noticed that the increase in my energy allows me to experience clarity two times a day, instead of one. Since my injury, I am clearest mentally when I get up in the morning. By the afternoon, all hard thinking for the day needs to be done. Now, I find that I have a second wave of clarity around 4-6 pm, where I can do things I didn’t do earlier – manage the bills, write, make decisions. Having that extra bit of time has made managing my life so much more doable.
Like everything with this brain injury, though, healing is slow. Painfully slow sometimes. Part of the challenge during the entire healing process has been to accept that it is a rollercoaster – you go up, but then you go down. You go left and right and diagonal and all sorts of directions, with the hope and desire to slowly, slowly move forward. What HBOT offers is to redirect me, on a daily basis, forward. Maybe just a few inches forward, but forward none-the-less. And that is what is so valuable, that it helps me consistently move forward, one day on top of another, to eventually… eventually, get me to full function and health. Don’t get me wrong, I still have ups and downs. I still have bad days and days where fog fills my head. I still overdo it and set myself back. But HBOT helps a little bit, every day, to push me in the direction I want to go.
How does it do that? I don’t know. There are all sorts of theories out there, and a little bit of scientific study, and much more to learn. A nurse friend of mine thinks it makes sense that increasing the oxygen in my brain and my bloodstream helps me heal. He sees oxygen used every day to help patients at the hospital. So, there’s that. In the end, though, I don’t really care why. I just care that it works for me.
All of the improvements I’ve experienced have allowed me to be more social. Not only to have the energy to go out a bit more often, but more importantly – it has allowed me to carry on a conversation in a competent and skilled manner. It has allowed me to be more than a fogged-brained zombie who can only manage to show up for the gathering. Now, I’m am someone who can contribute and be part of the gathering.
The improvement was obvious at our Solstice Party in December. We had friends over, some new and some well known. I spent two hours chatting. Continually. Not passively sitting, listening to someone who loves the sound of their own voice. No. Having conversations. Engaging. Responding. Starting conversations. Bringing up topics. Framing my response within the context of my experience (e.g. remembering the game Smear the Queer I played as a child and how that relates to one friend’s experience teaching young people). Basically, acting like a normal person. Talking like a normal person, with enough of my mental faculties to enjoy the conversation and be part of it, instead of struggling to push through a fog trying to grasp what people are talking about. A nice change, I have to tell you. A real nice fucking change.
So, in conclusion, does HBOT help me heal? Yes. It has helped me enough that I have taken action. With the assistance of a medical equipment loan and the generosity of a loving friend, I have purchased my own hyperbaric chamber. Here it is:
Well, actually, those are the boxes it is in. I hope, soon, to have it put together and running. Maybe in the next week? You can’t tell, but it’s the smallest (and cheapest) available on the market from a reputable manufacturer. Once I have it all put together, it will look something like this:
I am still waiting for a refurbished oxygen concentrator to round out the equipment needed for hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Hopefully that will arrive in the next week or two. The extra bit of wait is worth saving $500.
So there it is. I believe in HBOT enough to spend more than $5000 to buy my own. I believe in it enough that it will be my main medical treatment for the next year or two. I really, really, hope my financial investment pays off.
I’ll keep you posted on my experience. I’ll also let you know once I have my HBOT system set up and my new daily routine established. Wish me luck!