Healing Lyme Meningitis With Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

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On July 4th, 2012, my life changed dramatically. I was suddenly in agonizing pain with a high fever and incapacitated by what was eventually diagnosed as Early Disseminating Lyme Meningitis, and then Lyme radiculoneuritis. Within the short span of just 12 hours, I went from being a person actively gardening, mountain biking and doing the chiropractic work that I love to being bedridden and in acute, excruciating pain.

Treated first with IV antibiotics my condition improved, but soon deteriorated again as I began to experience severe lower back, leg and abdominal pain. Nine months later I remained unable to walk, dress, read, drive, or sit without excruciating pain. A host of treatment approaches, including a long course of IV antibiotics were unsuccessful, and my life was reduced to my couch, bed, constant pain and morphine.

I am fortunate to live in Vermont, where there are not enough people for much anonymity. Eventually a friend of a friend heard about my situation and offered to let me use her hyperbaric oxygen chamber. This was the beginning of life a new for me. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) allowed me to recover and get my life back. I took out a loan and got a hyperbaric chamber for use at home — I could not drive or walk without assistance, so this was my only option. Within two weeks I started walking again, discontinued morphine, and was gradually recovering. Now I garden, run, ski, and work full-time. I have resumed the chiropractic practice I love and am certified in Hyperbaric and Undersea Medicine.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is defined as the medical use of oxygen at pressures greater than normal. Although I was a physician, I had never heard of HBOT until Lyme disease catapulted me into incapacity and demoralizing pain. It is a safe, effective and well-researched treatment modality that is underutilized here in the U.S, as we tend to rely on pharmaceutical approaches instead.

The hyperbaric chamber is a tent-like structure that one can sit or lie down in. It is pressurized with room air at the normal mix of 21% oxygen, and an oxygen concentrator is used to provide 90-95% oxygen, which one breathes through a mask. At normal pressure, oxygen is carried by red blood cells, but the increased pressure in the chamber allows the oxygenation of plasma and all fluids, perfusing the entire body, brain and all of the organs with high levels of oxygen. This provides powerful anti-inflammatory and antibiotic effects, and speeds tissue healing, including soft tissue, bone, brain and neural tissue. It also stimulates stem cell production and normalizes immune function. Even when one’s blood supply has been compromised, as in the case of a stroke, diabetes or a large wound, HBOT delivers high levels of oxygen directly to the tissues.

Both clinical experience and research demonstrate that HBOT is particularly effective in treating chronic and degenerative conditions such as traumatic brain injuries, non-healing wounds, radiation damage, autism, and resistant infections such as Lyme disease. Over 30,000 research articles support its use. 1 The U.S. military is using it to treat veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries and PTSD. Diabetic patients have been able to avoid amputations and halt vision loss, allowing them to regain mobility and resume their daily activities. Even some patients with dementia have made complete recoveries, and others regained the ability to speak following strokes using HBOT.

The U.K. has over 50 HBOT centers for the treatment of MS and cerebral palsy, which have been a central part of their treatment protocol for over 35 years. In other countries, HBOT has been approved for the treatment of between 60-120 conditions. Many of these conditions have few other effective treatment options. It’s time to spread the word here in the U.S. about this safe, effective treatment option.

1 See https://www.hyperbaricvermont.org/research-resources/ 

Dr. Grace Johnstone is certified in Hyperbaric and Undersea Medicine and runs three hyperbaric treatment centers, as well as the nonprofit Hyperbaric Vermont, committed to making affordable HBOT treatment and education available throughout Vermont. Visit www.hyperbaricvermont.org for more information.