All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for May 2003

State family feels oxygen therapy proving helpful

California doctor recommended treatment for strokes

May 07, 2003
By Patty Brandl

The petite blond woman, eyes closed and head resting against the back of a big leather armchair, waits as the last inch of the foul-smelling liquid in the intravenous bag drips into her arm.

Although the chelation medication might smell offensive to some, to Chris Hart, it carries the scent of hope. It is the halfway point in a series of 30 treatments at Fox Valley Wellness Center in Fond du Lac, and she prepares to enter the futuristic-looking oxygen chamber for the second time that day.

After suffering one stroke in February 2002, and another a few months later, the 44-year-old homemaker and mother from Athens, Wis., discovered that she had lost muscular strength, coordination and balance, along with her vision. Physical therapy prescribed at the Marshfield Clinic barely scratched the surface in repairing the devastation caused by the sudden vascular ruptures.

With nowhere to turn and few options from which to choose, Hart’s family contacted a doctor in California who specialized in vitamin and natural supplemental therapy for stroke victims. He suggested hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy as a treatment to regain some of the physical and mental functions she had lost.

HBO is a medical treatment where oxygen is administered at a greater than normal pressure to a patient in order to treat specific medical indications and has been utilized for years to treat patients suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning and gangrenous wounds.

“When we found out about the treatment, we weren’t sure where to look,” said Hart’s father, Gordon Giese, in the IV room at the Fond du Lac combined traditional and alternative medical practice. “We were hoping to find one in Illinois or Wisconsin.”

As residents of Edgar, Wis., Giese and his wife, Eldora, were happy to discover a medical practice in the state with an HBO chamber that would treat their daughter’s symptoms. When they arranged treatment at the newly expanded Fox Valley Wellness Center in Fond du Lac, Hart and her family were pleased to learn that they would be able to stay at a reasonably priced, furnished apartment that the clinic makes available to patients undergoing the two- to six-week therapy.

Although some hospitals in the state have hyperbaric chambers, they will use them to treat only 14 recognized conditions approved by the American Medical Association and Medicare, said FVWC co-owner Julie Spallas.

The decision for hospitals to structure HBO therapy this way, she said, was based on results of extensive studies proving the safety and effectiveness for the 14 designated conditions. Newer studies have found positive resolution of symptoms due to other diseases or conditions like strokes, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis, but the traditional medical arena believes that more studies are needed before they will approve HBO for those conditions.

In the meantime, clinics like FVWC offer hope to patients like Hart and her husband, David.

“I think it’s helping her already,” he said. “She can walk better.”

His wife hesitates as she searches for the words that often prove elusive.

“He can tell better than I can,” she said, pronouncing each syllable carefully.

Dr. Steven Meress, FVWC co-owner, agreed that Hart is responding to the treatments, with “significant change” in both strength and vision.

“After the first half of the treatments, she could walk over to the chamber and open the door, which she couldn’t do before,” Meress said.

The treatment, particularly detoxification therapy, is also used to resolve the cause of the symptoms.

“Our goal is not just treating the problem, but preventing it,” he said.

By the end of the treatments, Hart could recognize faces, write a legible grocery list and see the color red. To some, it might sound like small steps in the right direction. However, to Hart and her family, it’s like Christmas in springtime.

“We’re hoping that this is the answer,” her father said.

Copyright © 2003, Gannett Wisconsin Online