Normally, the 46-year-old Pleasant Grove mother would have questioned that something so unfamiliar would really help. But her physician’s confidence in the procedure – and her trust in him – made it an easy decision.
“He told me if I did oxygen therapy, I had a 98 percent chance of saving the tissue. If I didn’t, I had a 20 percent chance. It was a huge miracle for me and I’m grateful every day that the outcome was what it was,” said Harding, who finished her treatments at Utah Valley Hospital in early July.
Utah Valley’s eight-person hyperbaric chamber, the first of its kind south of Salt Lake City, began treating patients in May of 2006. The hospital added two individual chambers in 2015 to make it easier to help patients admitted to the hospital. More than 600 patients have been treated over the past decade.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is the process of providing 100 percent oxygen to damaged body tissues under pressure to promote the healing of the tissues, reduce swelling and improve circulation. Patients receive pure oxygen at the same pressure as diving 33 to 66 feet below sea level in a special chamber. It’s proven beneficial in treating wounds that have difficulty healing, carbon monoxide poisoning, tissue damage from radiation, wounds caused by crushing injuries and bone and soft tissue infections.
Marc Robins, DO, a hyperbaric medicine physician at Utah Valley, said his patients form a strong bond with staff and each other as they “dive” in the chamber. They learn each other’s stories and offer encouragement to continue through what can often be a taxing treatment schedule.
“Our patients bond with each other as well as with our incredibly nurturing staff during their long treatment periods,” said Dr. Robins. “We’ve seen some amazing healing take place over the past 10 years which might not have been possible without a hyperbaric chamber.”
Harding spent almost two months undergoing treatments, which consisted of two dives in the chamber every day. She’d leave her home at 7 a.m. and usually get done by 4:30 p.m., with just enough time in between sessions to grab lunch and a short nap. It was an exhausting schedule, especially right after surgery, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“You’re just so grateful for the chance to try to save things,” said Harding. “I’m so grateful for all the hours and years of sacrifice from the doctors and nurses and technicians so they know what they know to take of me.”