Hyperbaric oxygen therapy reverses drowned toddler’s brain damage

After Eden Carlson almost drowned in her family’s pool in February 2016, she suffered brain damage that left her immobile and unresponsive to nearly all stimuli. Doctors informed her family that she would remain in that vegetative state for the remainder of her life. A little over a year later, the now-three-year-old Arkansas toddler is talking and playing like any other child her age. According to her family, the dramatic turnaround is thanks to hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Despite everything the doctors told them, her parents refused to give up. Speaking to the DailyMail.co.uk, Kristal Carlson, 40, explained: “We had to be proactive. We had to fight for her, despite what the doctors said. We had to find treatment for her. It was hard because we had hope that she would recover, but when she came out of the ER and we saw the effects, it was very disheartening.”

That was when they discovered hyperbaric oxygen therapy online and learned of the New Orleans-based Dr. Paul Harch, a specialist with more than 25 years of experience under his belt.

Due to the distance between them, Eden Carlson was unable to travel to Harch treatment. Harch instructed her family to use the oxygen tank provided by the hospital to administer two-liter doses a minute for 45 minutes, twice a day, in the meantime. Her parents started this 55 days after Eden Carlson’s drowning incident. (Related: 8 Things You Need to Know About Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy.)

Normally, hyperbaric oxygen therapy would involve having a person sit in a pressurized tank to breathe in pure oxygen. Doing this would allow the lungs to absorb more oxygen, leading to oxygen being dissolved in all the body’s fluids then delivered to all parts of the body, such as those with damaged tissues.

“I told them to film it so I could see what we were dealing with. The results were phenomenal. I knew straight away that she would benefit,” Harch said.

After Eden Carlson’s condition stabilized, her parents brought her to New Orleans to undergo treatment under Harch’s watchful eye. She was scheduled to undergo five 45-minute sessions for four weeks, though she began showing improvements after just 10 sessions. By the 40th session, Eden Carlson appeared “almost 100 percent the same as before”, according to her astonished mother. With the aid of physical therapy, the treatment had restored Eden Carlson’s motor function and cognitive abilities almost to near-normalcy.

Even Eden Carlson’s post-therapy MRI scan showed drastic changes, a fact that surprised Harch. “Normally, I have to do a functional MRI to see the difference. In this case, they did an MRI and her brain looked completely normal. Unequivocally, she had regrown substantial brain tissue,” he said.

Harch surmised that the success behind the treatment could be attributed to them acting immediately. He explained: “I was able to intervene so early before she had permanently lost so much brain tissue. Because she was young and it was early, I thought we had a chance.”

He added: “This is the first case that I’ve seen such a huge difference. I was confident beforehand that the therapy could help her. But yes, it really exceeded my expectations.”

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Fast facts on hyperbaric oxygen therapy

  • According to MedicalNewsToday.com, the first known hyperbaric oxygen chamber was built in 1662 by British clergyman and physician known only as Henshaw.
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been a standard treatment for United States military divers since the 1940s. This therapy is used as a primary treatment for decompression illness, a condition that occurs when divers surface too quickly.
  • Apart from decompression illness, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is approved as a treatment for acute traumatic ischemia, thermal burns, radiation injury, skin grafts, and necrotizing soft tissue infections.

Sources include:

DailyMail.co.uk
Newsweek.com
MedicalNewsToday.com

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