The gift of oxygen
Joplin chiropractor spreads awareness of hyperbaric oxygen therapy benefits for veterans
By Stacey Lindsay
At the end of the hallway in the Skaggs Chiropractic office in Joplin sit two futuristic-looking vessels. Retired Air Force veteran Amy Donaldson steps inside one and lies down. She nestles her head on the pillow, puts on a breathing mask and gives Dr. Steven Skaggs a thumbs up. He zips her in and turns on the air. Now Donaldson will take a 50-minute nap – in pure oxygen.
According to Skaggs, these treatments are improving lives and it is all due to the two vessels, professionally coined as Hyperbaric Oxygen Chambers. For more than five years he has been a passionate advocate for the HBO therapy. He witnessed it help his son Kayle regain his quality of life after suffering from a catastrophic allergic reaction that resulted in brain damage. Skaggs administered HBO therapy for Kayle that led to groundbreaking healing results. Now he is doing so for Donaldson and other veteran patients suffering from service-related injuries, particularly post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
“It’s not a panacea, it’s not a cure all, but there are so many things it can do and can help with,” Skaggs said.
The healing power is found in the combination of pure oxygen and pressure. The therapy involves patients lying in a pressurized room or tube – also referred to as taking a “dive” – and breathing 97 percent pure oxygen. According to New York Presbyterian Hospital, the average air found in a room has 21 percent oxygen. Therefore, HBO provides nearly five times the amount humans breathe in regular scenarios. The high pressure increases the oxygen in the bloodstream thus helping it to deeply permeate the tissues in the body.
“There are 8,000 plus human processes in the body that use oxygen and if these processes don’t have the amount of oxygen they need, the body can’t do these processes,” Skaggs said.
HBO is a well-established treatment approved by the FDA for various medical conditions including decompression sickness and serious infections. Mercy, Via Christi Health and Freeman Health System hospitals administer the treatment for its ability to help the body fight infection and repair wounds. Skaggs said after a patient has more than 20 HBO treatments, the formation of new blood vessels, also referred to as angiogenesis, takes place in the body particularly where there is damage.
“An amazing thing that we’re finding out is that at the same time we get the angiogenesis, we start getting stem cell formation,” Skaggs said. "With the stem cell formation, the stems cells will migrate to the area where there’s damage and will differentiate and start rebuilding the tissue that’s been damaged.”
Just as this process can help heal someone suffering from an infection, Skaggs believes it can also help the brain heal itself and thus recover from a TBI. He has helped numerous patients regain their health and lives, including his son Kayle and a little girl who suffered severe brain damage from shaken baby syndrome to whom he is currently administering therapy.
And then there are the veterans he is helping. An advocate for showing support to those who served, Skaggs is on a mission to offer a non-drug form of therapy to local veterans suffering from TBI and other head injuries.
“There are studies on these vets coming back from Afghanistan that’s proving that it’s being done,” he said.
In 2007, Donaldson suffered a severe injury during an Air Force training exercise that resulted in the explosion of her sinuses and a cerebrospinal fluid leak. In the years following her retirement from the military, she suffered from headaches, loss of concentration, tension and other related issues.
“With TBI and PTSD your concentration level is broken,” she said. “You’re easily distracted and it’s hard to concentrate. For me, because I went ahead and finished my bachelor’s degree after my injury, it was extremely hard for me (…) to be in class.”
Her issues reached new heights in 2015 when she began chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer. She said she couldn’t “break through the barrier” of having worsened memory and concentration loss from the cancer treatment – until she knocked on Skaggs’ door.
“After my first oxygen therapy the chemo brain completely went away and I felt like I was back at a point before I was ever injured in 2007,” Donaldson said. “As my treatments went on, I found myself where I was reading three or four books at a time and I have never been able to do that,” she said. “As a matter of fact, I’m doing that right now. I’m reading three books. I put one down I pick up another one. I saw the effects of the hyperbaric oxygen therapy right away and that’s what I hope other people will see.”
Stories like Donaldson’s run through Skaggs’ office.
“We have some vets who have had some tremendous recovery,” he said. “We had a lady who called and said ‘I’m a returning vet from Afghanistan, I had a Humvee blown up underneath me, I have PTSD really bad, I have a TBI and I’ve been in my apartment for eight months,’” Skaggs said. “I said ‘OK, what can we do for you?’”
She asked about HBO treatment, but due to her service related paranoia and other injuries, it was hard for her to physically make it into the office.
“She comes in, four months after she finds us, and takes her first treatment,” Skaggs said. “Before her tenth dive she looks at us and says, "I went to Walmart and went grocery shopping today.’”
Several dives later the patient called Skaggs and his office to tell them she had a job.
Such successes are helping to spread awareness and hope for the treatment. The proof is also bolstering the work of other advocates in the field, including Louisiana-based physician Paul Harch who lauds the effects HBO therapy can have on veterans suffering from blast-induced post-concussion syndrome and PTSD.
But not everyone in the field of veteran healthcare is following suit.
“What we are doing for these vets, the VA is not doing,” Skaggs said. “They can’t even get close to it.”
A 2015 article published by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs cast a shadow over the use of HBO therapy for treating veterans with brain injuries. It highlighted a 2015 study led by Colonel Scott Miller, an infectious disease specialist at the U.S. Army Medical Material Development Activity at Fort Detrick, Md, that divided veteran participants into three groups. The first group received 40 one-hour sessions of 100-percent oxygen at 1.5 times normal pressure over a 10-week period, the second group received a placebo treatment and the third group received regular care. Groups one and two showed improvements but this did not result in Miller or the VA speaking supportively of the treatment.
“People did get better and we can’t ignore those results,” Miller said in the VA article. “The DoD and VA research teams do have an ongoing study which will be completed in 2016. But based on what we know, I don’t see any benefit to putting (hyperbaric oxygen therapy) forward for additional studies.”
As Miller stated, further studies are being conducted by the VA – and those for the treatment hope the administration will recognize it as a progressive and affective alternative treatment to drugs. Both Donaldson and Skaggs are among the group hoping for more widespread use of HBO that includes treating veterans. Regardless, they will continue to advocate for it at the local level in hopes that the winning results further permeate the masses, perhaps just like the oxygen itself.
“I as a veteran am honored that he feels so strongly for us and cares so much about us that he is offering this great gift,” Donaldson said.
Skaggs said, "he will hold his door open and offer the treatment free of charge to veterans in need".
“If they’re service member and they’ve been diagnosed with a TBI or PTSD, I want them,” Skaggs said. “I don’t care if it’s back to Vietnam, I want them here because we can change their lives.”
Reprinted from jrj.biz, see original article here: