Friday, January 8, 2010

Hyperbaric Hope for Parkinson's?

Being slid into a man-size acrylic test tube was the perfect metaphor for what was occurring. It was an experiment, and I was the object. It was obvious from the hospital gown that I was wearing, the wristband, and the fact that I was lying under a crisp sheet with a warm blue blanket over top of that. The door above my head shut, and despite the lack of my hearing aids, which along with all metal had been removed shortly before lying down, I could hear the hiss of what sounded like gas entering the acrylic canister. It was odorless (at least as far as my smeller allowed me to detect), cool feeling and colorless. I did not react as the pure oxygen filled the small space around me, but I immediately concluded that this was no place for people with hyperactive imaginations or claustrophobia, despite the fact that it was quite comfortable.

As a Scuba diver, I was familiar and quite at ease with the idea of going down to 2 atmospheres (about 60 feet under the surface). I adjusted the air pressure in my eardrums by swallowing, yawning and, when necessary, blowing out while closing my mouth and holding my nose. I descended slowly in the dive and after a few minutes reached the appropriate level. There I would remain for the next 90 minutes.

Under 2 atmospheres of pressure your bladder is prone to remind you that there is no toilet in the airtight transparent capsule. Thankfully, I had accepted the invitation to visit the men's room before beginning.

At first I thought that my fatigue would easily allow me to sleep despite the movie playing above my head during my time in the tube. At first I was too aware of everything that was going on, the sensations and how I was feeling. And then I got interested in the suspense movie. I was comfortable in my crystal clear cocoon and found myself wishing I could stay there longer when my ears started to pop as the pod was decompressing.

That was my first of 10 experiences in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. Klaus, Sanja and Payman of BaroMedical, who monitored my every move from the moment I arrived until I left each time, were completely professional, careful and caring. There was no attempt to "sell" me on more treatments than I needed to make my decision. They seemed as interested as I was in finding out whether hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) would have a positive effect on my Parkinson's disease.

From my reading and surfing the Internet, I was aware of some evidence that HBOT could help people with Parkinson's disease. But there was no significant amount of scientific support for this application. HBOT has proven helpful and is entirely accepted by informed members of the medical profession when it comes to healing wounds, burns and other uses. Virtually every sports team has a facility either for its own use, or readily at hand, to increase the speed with which any of their athlete's injuries can be healed. There is also considerable evidence that this therapy can have significant benefits for some neurologically-based diseases.

While there were no significant improvements in my symptoms after my chosen experimental 10 "dives" of 90 minutes each, I felt entirely satisfied with my experience. I would have always wondered if I had not tried it.

Although I was disappointed in the lack of results, it also gave me plenty of opportunity to think through my initial reticence to try something out-of-the-box like Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. I discovered that it was my fear, my being afraid of disappointment, afraid of looking foolish or having my high hopes dashed.

I found that this is but another fear that must be confronted. We must have hope. No matter how many times the harsh waves of life’s sea dashes our fragile vessel of hope against the rocks of disappointment, we must continue to be willing to try the unconventional again. For that is how discoveries are made.

After watching 3 "heist" whodunit movies in a row, I elected to watch a CBC series on the history of Canada (Canada: A People's History). I found it extremely well done and fascinating, especially the parts about explorers who ventured to the New World against all logic of the day to confront merciless forces for pitiful gain. It was ironic that I watched stories of those brave, sometimes reckless, men who, with little more than laughable hope and insane tenacity, survived starvation and danger to find new lands. Despite the disappointment that became their stock and trade, these adventurers persevered, finding new paths through the wilderness and passes across the mountains.

Was it worth it? Certainly! It is not a failure to learn that something that might work for others does not work for me. For I am but an explorer, and hope is my daily ration.


  1. Hi Bob,

    We have been using HBOT ( in conjunction with LDN ( for over 5 years for my dad's PD. My best guess is that ten treatments were not enough for you to really see sufficient benefit for your PD. It might also be that the combination we are using is giving greater benefit. I do know that my dad could not be as well as he is without regulare HBOT treatments.

    Wishing you the best,

  2. Bob,
    Thanks for posting your experience with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. It is something we have thought about trying for our daughters' Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

  3. I would agree with distinyellen that 10 treatments might not be enough. The standard for brain injury treatment seems to be 80 to achieve permanence. I would expect that with PD the benefit would not be effected mainly by increased oxygenation but by neural/glial regrowth prompted by stem cell mobilization, which appears to take about 5 sessions to achieve (Thom 2007).

    @Carol Wiley, for FM/CFIDS, have you looked at at Metabolic Treatment of Fibromyalgia by Dr. John Lowe (D.C.)? He basically traces all the symptoms associated with FM back to hypothyroidism/hypo-metablism.

  4. How does this work and what is LDN.