Samuel Lehrer has worked with specialized medical equipment for his entire career, specifically with hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) units in the past five years. Here, he helps readers understand how the therapy was recently employed to heal and improve brain function after a toddler was resuscitated following drowning.
For decades, hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been used to treat a number of conditions such as gas poisoning and symptoms of “the bends.” Samuel Lehrer tells us that the high levels of oxygen and pressure used in the therapy can have a unique healing effect on tissues and cells, such as in the case of a little girl who drowned in her pool at home.
“Arkansas parents discovered their young daughter face down in their home pool and were finally able to resuscitate her at the hospital more than an hour later,” says Samuel Lehrer. “She suffered severe brain injuries after drowning and there was little hope for total recovery until a doctor suggested HBOT treatments.”
When doctors initially scanned the toddler’s brain, they found significant injuries, including evidence that her brain had begun to shrink and lose both its gray and white matter. These elements are responsible for muscle control, sensory perception, speech and make up the bulk network of central nervous system wiring in the brain. Following resuscitation, the child lost the ability to speak, walk and respond normally to commands in addition to her muscle control.
“Things were looking pretty sour for the child’s circumstance before Dr. Harch was consulted, who began a bridging treatment to prevent permanent tissue degeneration while he made plans to transfer his patient to a distant hyperbaric oxygen therapy unit,” says Samuel Lehrer.
After these treatments were completed, something around 80 days following her drowning, the child and her family traveled to New Orleans where Dr. Harch began using HBOT. Here, she underwent a total of 40 sessions in 45-minute increments five days a week. It began to have a major effect right away and the patient began demonstrating visually apparent and/or physical examination-documented neurological improvement.
Once a total of 10 HBOT sessions had been administered, the patient’s mother noticed that she had almost returned to normal function besides lagging in gross motor function. After another 29 HBOT sessions, the patient “exhibited assisted gait, speech level greater than pre-drowning, near normal motor function, normal cognition, improvement on nearly all neurological exam abnormalities, discontinuance of all medications, as well as residual emotional, gait and temperament deficits.” Brain scans following the treatments showed a near-complete reversal of cortical and white matter atrophy.
“While this amount of recovery isn’t the norm necessarily, it does demonstrate the powerful potential that HBOT can have on damaged brains, especially those of younger patients who have hormone-rich brains that are much more capable of rebuilding,” says Samuel Lehrer.