The Eatons are a close knit unit, - a family of four with Andrew, myself (Paula), Jenna and last but certainly not the least, Angus. Jenna was born in 2009 with Angus hot on her heels, 17 months later.
Jenna’s Autism was confirmed about two years after she was born and not long after that, we realised that Angus had ‘global developmental delays’ which a few years later, was confirmed to be Autism too.
Both my pregnancies were very healthy and ‘normal’, but I do remember it being a stressful time in our lives … and a very busy one, trying to make ends meet in a chaotic fast paced environment. Why is this relevant? You might ask. Well we have spent the last few years trying to make sense of our new reality. As a parent, one gets steered in many different directions trying to find answers on how to find the best approach in dealing and handling this condition called Autism. It can get overwhelming, despite the good intentions of friends, therapist and specialists who all want to help.Read more...
I find a good way to explain it, is using the analogy of a very big puzzle with many small pieces that have fallen into my world. My challenge has been knowing how these pieces fit together and whether they have actually come from the same puzzle … do they fit or don’t they? What has added to the complexity of our situation, is that our children have such different challenges, yet they are both Autistic. This is typical of Autism, people will always tell you, no two Autistic children are the same! In fact, we embraced Jenna’s Autism because it was termed ‘classical’ and could not be denied. This was very helpful because we did not delay with the interventions that she needed. Angus, on the other hand, was more complicated. He presented with what was termed ‘dysmorphic features’ that compelled us to seek out the expertise of a Geneticist to try and help us to identify whether he had an underlying syndrome. Angus was always referred to as having ‘global developmental delay’ and it was only when he was between 6 and 7 years old, that the Autism was officially confirmed and realised.
This turned our survival strategy into a very ‘mainstream’ one – getting the formal diagnosis and then hitting them hard with therapy to support the development. Early intervention was a consistent message and so that’s what we did – everything to not lose precious time according to ‘early childhood brain plasticity’ principles.
Inexplicably, I had the number seven floating around in my head as being the point at which brain plasticity would reach its limit. It was at this point that Andrew and I decided that we could not go on with our hectic lifestyle and that we needed to find something better and closer to our family support hub. So we moved to the Kwazulu-Natal coast and bought a home in Salt Rock. it was here that we shifted the emphasis to us trying to adjust our ‘lifestyle’ but keeping the momentum going with our focus on our children’s development. At this point (It pains me to say it) I had lost HOPE, to some degree, and reasoned with myself that if I continued trying to ‘fix’ my children, they would grow up feeling that they are a problem to be always fixed and that this would lead to self-esteem issues in their teenage years. And so we accepted that our main focus should be on our lifestyle and the acceptance of the beautiful children we had been given.
In January 2018, I attended a presentation promoting the work of The Family Hope Centre. A level of anxiety set in as I realised that there is so much more that I could be doing to repair the brain and I realised that I needed to shift my thinking and make some massive changes in our lives. The changes started with a shift in the belief that Autism is ‘brain injury’ and not ‘brain damage’. I then realised that the potential and capability of the brain to repair itself, is enormous, no matter what the age of the person. I developed a stronger sense of HOPE which inherently brought a sense of peace and optimism to our lives. And so our journey is now strongly focussed on internal health and long term repair. I have subsequently entered a new world of research and am constantly learning every day. I am no longer working on a generic puzzle, but one more specifically that has very defined borders, which has provided me with direction and assists me when I need to make decisions for my family.
Despite my professional training (with a degree in Human Movement Studies a post graduate diploma in Education, an Honours in Human Resource Development, and another post graduate diploma in Labour Relations), I have realised I will always be a teacher at heart. I feel like I have almost completed a full circle in my life - in that I started with a push and focus on career, combined with fast paced, over achiever mindset, which, I believe has contributed to the consequences we are living with today. I have now returned to my first intention of being a teacher but in the context of healing and educating my own children who are, at this stage, unable to enter the mainstream schooling environment. It has provided ‘food for thought’ and I would not change my situation for anything in the world. I feel very enlightened with this new perspective as it has also provided me with clarity on my situation and I am able to make sense of how the influence the modern world has on our health. My journey continues to evolve as I learn through my own experiences and feel so much more aligned to my purpose.
Mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy raises the level of oxygen in the blood’s plasma. This increased oxygen in the plasma leads to higher amounts of oxygen being delivered to the body’s tissues, organs and brain. The brain – which is only two percent of our total weight, and uses more than twenty percent of the body’s available oxygen. Oxygen provides the bulk of the energy our body needs but also promotes the elimination of accumulated toxins in the body. Under mild pressure conditions, additional oxygen is dissolved into the blood plasma and enters the tissues directly.
Oxygen may be given by mask but it not necessary for this treatment. Although oxygen given by mask can increase saturation levels of oxygen, it does not necessarily increase the amount of oxygen dissolved in the plasma alone. It does offer a small increase in oxygenation. The increased pressure in the hyperbaric chamber provides the benefit, by increasing the levels of oxygen in the plasma considerably. In order to understand the concept from a technical perspective, one can look into Henry’s law. This provides scientific rationale for gas under pressure and how it diffuses into a liquid – then more specifically how this impacts the body when it is subjected to increased pressure.
Mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy promotes relaxation, stimulates the body’s healing processes, increases stamina and endurance and also helps the body to return to a state of balance and wellbeing. This therapy does not cure, but rather accelerates the recovery process and creates an optimal environment wherein the body can heal itself. It is often an appropriate addition to a comprehensive treatment program including medical, nutritional and other therapeutic modalities.
Our chamber is a portable mild hyperbaric chamber and is a Class II medical device. The chamber meets FDA 510 (k) specifications. It creates an increase in atmospheric pressure (1,3 ATA) by using an air compressor wherein the occupant breathes ambient air OR oxygen enriched air.
Regarding safety, high-pressure environments carry a higher risk, while the use of mild pressure chambers significantly reduce the occurrence of adverse events and is considered 100% safe.
Once we have understood the background to your need to use the chamber, you will need to decide and consider your commitment in time (frequency and duration). Oxy-Gen’s chamber only offers mild HBOT and is therefore not required to be administered by a medical practitioner.
Risks in mild HBOT are minimal however, the following has been recorded:
Its important to note that these adverse events are infrequent and typically not serious. The findings for this study suggest that mild HBO therapy is a safe and low risk intervention.
Its important to inform us when:
The chamber is a ‘soft shell’ chamber with an attached air pump and oxygen concentrator. You can choose to purchase an oxygen mask in order to allow more direct flow of oxygen (not essential for treatment, but an added benefit). The equipment has a ‘running sound’, in case information is required for sound sensitive patients. You are required to enter through a large zip area, and can lie comfortably on a thick ‘dive mat’. We provide a clean linen (sheet and pillows) for comfort. A parent can accompany a child in the chamber. The chamber has a double zip mechanism to ensure its securely sealed. Buckles are also closed on the outside. There are two windows to allow for communication outside the chamber. Inside the chamber, there is a pressure valve showing how the pressure increases to the maximum of 1,3 ATA.
As the chamber pressurizes, your eardrum is pushed inwards. This therefore requires the you to equalize pressure in the middle ear. It is recommended that you should clear your ears every 30 seconds during ‘compressive phase. In order to equalize, you hold your nose closed and close your mouth. Lift the back of your tongue toward the roof of the mouth. Attempt to blow through your nose (short and sharp) while holding it shut. Other methods including swallowing, sips of water, pull and stretch external ears whilst attempting to yawn. Some patients who have difficulty, find that through a bit of practice, they can overcome the difficulty. The sinus usually equalizes without any action of your part.
Other important points to note:
Under normal conditions, hemoglobin carries 97% of the oxygen in the circulation and an additional 3% is dissolved in the blood. Oxygen given by mask can increase the saturation of hemoglobin to 100%, but this does not appreciably increase the amount of oxygen dissolved in the plasma. Although this small increase in oxygenation is beneficial, it is minimally effective in the treatment of advanced disease.
The increased pressure in a hyperbaric chamber allows the level of oxygen carried by the plasma to increase considerably and breathing 100% oxygen while in the treatment chamber can allow the delivery of approximately 10 times the usual amount of oxygen in our circulation. This rapidly raises oxygen levels in all tissues to enhance energy production and the elimination of accumulated toxins. In disease conditions where inflammation and edema are present, circulation in the tissues involved is compromised and oxygen delivery often does not reach the level necessary for healing to occur.
Increasing the amount of oxygen circulating in the bloodstream allows cells in areas of poor perfusion to receive the oxygen necessary for metabolism and decrease the probability of cell death. After many injuries, there is an area of tissue that will not recover surrounded by an area that has the potential to recover. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is often successful in bringing this injured and dormant area back to health.
Clinical response to hyperbaric treatment has been reported in a wide variety of conditions. Clients with the following diagnoses often respond to treatment:
Autism, Cerebral palsy, Multiple sclerosis, Attention deficit disorder, Fibromyalgia, Chronic fatigue, Crohn’s disease/colitis, Burns, Crush injuries, Myocardial infarction, Infections, Surgical wounds, Bone fractures, Diabetic ulcers, Mitochondrial disorders, Ammonia toxicity, Acne.
The hyperbaric chamber at Oxy-Gen is spacious enough to accommodate a child and his or her parent. Individuals under 5′ tall are usually able to sit up in the chamber if desired. The procedure is comfortable and painless. A slight pressure may be felt on the eardrums, similar to that felt while on an aircraft. Yawning or swallowing alleviates this pressure sensation. Treatment sessions last 1-2 hours, but may vary according to the diagnosis and individual needs of our patients. In most cases, other treatments should be continued during HBOT, as neurological response to treatment will be optimal while oxygen levels are elevated. The chamber has multiple windows and clients can easily communicate with staff members while in the chamber. Patients often listen to music, read, play, rest, or sleep while undergoing treatment.
In the case of cerebral palsy, improvements in language and cognition were often maintained after treatment was discontinued, but spasticity returned in many cases. Most individuals with significant diseases such as multiple sclerosis, autism, or cerebral palsy find that intensive initial treatment followed by a maintenance program of treatments on a weekly or monthly basis is the ideal combination. Other conditions such as wounds or infections are treated rapidly and do not require maintenance sessions.
The benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be maximized by avoiding tobacco, alcohol, and other toxins during treatment. A healthy diet, ample water intake, and adequate rest are advised during and after treatment and nutitional supplements specific to your medical condition will be recommended.
Avoid any individuals with illnesses to reduce the risk of contracting an infection during the course of your treatment. Upper respiratory, ear, or sinus infections would require a delay in treatment.
Wear lightweight, comfortable clothing during treatment. You may drink water from a water bottle with a sports top, but do not bring any other beverages or food into the chamber. Please refrain from wearing perfume, cologne, hair gel, or scented lotions, as many of our clients are sensitive to these chemicals.
Individual one hour treatment sessions are R350 each. A series of 40 sessions scheduled within a 4 month time period costs R8000. Other variation of bulk purchases can be considered and a quote provided on request.