I can still remember lying on the MRI table. Being claustrophobic, it was not a pleasant experience. Hearing the tick, tick, tick of the machine as I kept my eyes closed so I wouldn’t notice how closed in I was. As unpleasant as that experience was, the meetings with neurologists over the next few months were even more startling. I had been diagnosed with an unusually large cyst in the pineal gland of my brain. It would be awhile before I explored some natural health alternatives, and finally discovered something that helped through functional medicine.
My rapid health decline
Over the next couple years, I felt helpless as my health steadily decreased. I tried numerous routes within conventional medicine, but to no avail. The most obvious sign was the loss of memory. It started slow, but seemed to accelerate at a pace that had me tremendously concerned. First, I had a tough time remembering names and places. Then, recall of things I had done even the day before seemed to vanish from my mind. Eventually, it got to the point where in one instance, I had a half hour conversation with someone one morning. In the afternoon, I ran into that same person and literally could not even remember that I had ever met them in my life. This was terrifying!
Headaches became an everyday part of life. There was the constant headache which had been there for years without ever subsiding. Then there were the occasional intense headaches that made a migraine feel like a party. Life was a constant fog. Imagine trying to speak to someone in a congested bar on a Friday night – loud music, lights flashing, the constant background noise of hundreds of people speaking loud enough to talk over the music. Now, imagine that was the feeling you had even when you had a conversation with a friend in a quiet hallway, where the two of you are the only ones around. That became my life. It was frustrating and exhausting.
Fatigue became a major problem of epic proportions; to the point of needing over 18 hours of sleep a day, and feeling exhausted during the 6 hours you were awake. It was like being a zombie, or experiencing some out of body experience; I was awake but unable to fully function or comprehend everything going on around me. I wasn’t living… I was surviving, and barely doing that.
Eventually, it also began to affect my speech. Stuttering and slurring became a regular occurrence, especially when I was tired. I felt like my whole life was slowly slipping away and there was nothing I could do.
Would he remember me?
I have a son who was 4 at the time and a world of panic started setting in. Would I live long enough for him to remember me? What if my speech continued to get worse to the point he would not be able to understand me? How could I be the hero to my son if I couldn’t remember his favorite characters’ names, conversations from the day before, or his likes and dislikes? The thought of potentially not being able to fulfill this role as a father was a form of mental torture, and I was willing to do anything to make sure that didn’t happen.
My introduction to hyperbaric oxygen therapy
Then a functional medicine doctor friend of mine introduced me to Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT). HBOT is used in conventional medicine for post-op and severe wounds, but in the natural health realm, it has had success being used for so much more than that (learn more). He had a machine and offered to let me use it for free to see if it would make a difference. There were no guarantees, but at that point, I was willing to try anything.
When I first saw his HBOT machine, the first thing I thought of were the old pictures from The National Enquirer of Michael Jackson sleeping in one. My second thought (remember the claustrophobic guy on the MRI table 😊) was wondering if I would be able to stay in that thing!
The doctor explained that the brain only survives on glucose and oxygen. We get glucose from the food we eat. But oxygen, we breath in at somewhere between 20-21% from normal air. Inside the chamber, the oxygen goes to 95-96%, but the pressure takes it even further as it increases the flow through the lymphatic system and blood supply. This is why HBOT has become an instrumental component within functional medicine.
As with most natural health treatments, people typically require a few sessions to begin noticing results. But for me, the results started within 15 minutes of my first session. We believe my cyst may have taken as long as 30 years to grow so large. As a result, I had a pressure on my brain that I describe as feeling as if a vice grip had been tightened around my skull and was tightened ever so slowly over time. It became a part of life that had been with me so long, I literally had forgotten what it was like to not have the pain.
Within 15 minutes of my first session, it was like someone had slightly loosened the vice. The release in pressure was an indescribable sensation like I had never felt. The feeling ended shortly after that first session; but each subsequent visit increased the duration of the pressure release.
Over the next 6 months, there was a noticeable change from month to month in my cognitive ability, increased energy levels, clarity of speech and my ability to focus. Imagine the feeling of gratitude that someone has for a paramedic who saves their life. That’s the same thought I have about hyperbaric oxygen therapy. It literally gave me my life back.
There are no guarantees, but I strongly suggest to speak with a doctor to see if hyperbaric oxygen therapy is something that may help for you, or someone you love, who is suffering from any form of brain trauma, cysts, concussions, stroke recovery, initial stages of Alzheimer’s, etc. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has transformed my life. Although I still suffer from the effects of my brain cyst, my life would not be what it is today without benefiting from the healing properties of HBOT and functional medicine.