BY DEBBIE BRYCE
POCATELLO â€” Oxygen therapy, or hyperbaric treatment, is non-intrusive and pain-free and research indicates that its application could benefit veterans dealing with traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder.
However, insurance typically doesnâ€™t cover the cost of the treatment.
Jeff Hampsten, owner and operator of the Idaho Doctors Hospital Healing Center, has partnered with Bingham Memorial Hospital in Blackfoot to promote a new program aimed at providing hyperbaric treatment to vets.
Hampsten is looking for veterans to participate in treatment and heâ€™s hoping local businesses and nonprofit groups, as well as private individuals, will support the new program and sponsor a veteran who might benefit from oxygen therapy. The cost of hyperbaric treatment is about $8,000, he said.
â€śBut if you can heal a soldier for $8,000, he then becomes a productive, taxpaying member of the community again,â€ť Hampsten said.
The treatment will be part of a national case study and the Idaho Doctors Hospital Healing Center will be one of seven sites nationwide to take part in the research.
â€śRight now, funding is the only obstacle,â€ť Hampsten said.
Traumatic brain injury, PTSD and post-concussion depression have been signatures of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan â€” it is estimated that one-third of troops who serve in the Middle East have been injured.
Hyperbaric treatment works by profusing oxygen under pressure into the blood, allowing it to saturate tissues and increasing stems cells that target the injury, Hampsten said.
A case study conducted by Paul Harch at Louisiana State University tracked the progress of Curt Allen Jr. who was seriously injured in a car accident.
At the beginning of the study, Allen, 17, was unable to lift his head, walk, or respond to instructions. But after 40 hyperbaric treatments the youth is able to converse with the staff and speak. Today, three years later, he lives independently and is employed.
â€śAbout 350,000 brain injured veterans could benefit from this,â€ť Hampsten said.
Paul Kotter, spokesman for Bingham Memorial Hospital, said the facility heard about the new veterans program and decided to get on board. But Kotter said the treatment could also benefit survivors of automobile accidents, stroke patients and spider bite victims.
â€śItâ€™s a great service that has a lot of value and worth,â€ť Kotter said.
Kotter said the oxygen therapy is also being used to treat autism.
The Idaho Doctors Hospital Healing Center, located at 1125 W. Alameda Road, provides on-site apartments for visiting patients. The chambers there can accommodate numerous people at one time.
Patients wear a flexible plastic hood while seated inside the chamber. They are free to read, watch television or listen to music during the two-hour session.
â€śThis is the largest center in the area,â€ť Kotter said.
Murals decorate the chamber and provide a warm, relaxed atmosphere.
Currently, about 60 local doctors refer patients to the center for wound treatment.
Eli Henderson, also with Bingham Memorial, said there are few wounds that canâ€™t be healed using hyperbaric treatment.
Henderson added that hyperbaric treatment is often more cost-effective.
â€śIt should be considered early on, rather than as a last resort,â€ť he said.
For more information about the new program, or to sponsor a veteran, contact the Idaho Doctors Hospital Healing Center at 237-1151, or visit the website at www.idahohyperbarics.com.