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The healing power of oxygen

Columbus -  

To watch a video about Columbus Regional Hospital's new Hyperbaric Chambers click here.

Helen Land slid a ring from her finger moments before beginning her treatment at the Columbus Regional Hospital Wound Center.

"I can't believe I forgot to take it off," said Helen, 91. "My kids got this for me many years ago for Mother's Day."

Helen was about to begin her ninth hyperbaric oxygen "dive" at the Wound Center.

With 100 percent oxygen being pumped into the chamber at twice the normal atmospheric pressure, nearly anything beyond a cotton gown is prohibited.

The treatments are referred to as "dives" because patients experience similar pressure to scuba diving 33 feet under water.

Columbus Regional Hospital's Wound Center began offering hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) as a treatment for chronic and non-healing wounds in February. Six patients currently receive HBO treatments every day in the center's two HBO chambers.

"It usually takes centers weeks and months to get this many patients," said Kathy Merter, Clinical Care Manager at the center. "We feel very fortunate to already have this many patients. Our doctors were waiting for this treatment."

"This gives us a tremendous tool in our toolbox for limb salvage, for longevity, and for keeping these patients in our community," said Dr. John Hladik, a podiatrist and Wound Center Medical Director. "In the past patients would have had to go to regional centers for this kind of treatment."

Dr. Hladik explains that normal air contains about 21 percent oxygen and the chamber air contains 100 percent oxygen. The added pressure in the chamber forces the pure oxygen into the tissue, helping the wound heal faster.

Most HBO treatments consist of about 30 dives. Each dive lasts 90 minutes and patients typically visit the Wound Center five days a week until the treatment is complete.

Helen has been a patient of Dr. Hladik's for several years. Her wound developed after undergoing radiation therapy to treat skin cancer near her ankle.

"I've had this wound for about 10 years," said Helen. "It hurts on and off. Some days are worse than others."

Dr. Hladik introduced Helen to HBO about a year ago.

"He (Dr. Hladik) has tried just about everything," Helen said. "I thought I would try anything as long as it would help. I was a little scared at first but they were good coaches and I trusted them."

Before the Wound Center offered HBO, the closest treatment facility was about 30 minutes away.

"I went once but I just couldn't do that trip with my back and other health problems," Helen said. "I was so thankful when they started offering it here because it is only about a half a mile from where I live."

Helen said she would recommend HBO to anyone with chronic wounds.

"Everyone here is very kind and they make the experience comfortable," she said. "Once you understand what's going on, there's really nothing to it."


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