Ed Ryan, 59, of Penn Valley, has had to jump a lot of health hurdles in his race through life. But thanks to an office with a long name and a dedicated staff, his chances to finish the course are much improved.
In fact, after going through a series of treatments at the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine Center, Ryan said his chances of contracting potentially life-threatening infection of his jaw bone have gone from 80 percent to just 20 percent.
“Those people need to be commended,” Ryan said. “They are concerned and dedicated, and they’ve given me an opportunity to heal as successfully as I can.”
Although he is also disabled from a back injury, Ryan’s current situation traces back to nearly five years ago when he found he had tonsil cancer. Radiation treatments, while knocking down the cancer, left his mouth tissue damaged and unable to produce sufficient moisture to protect his tooth enamel. A few weeks ago he had to have 21 deteriorated teeth removed. The teeth will be replaced, but doctors are concerned that his damaged jawbone is vulnerable to infection that could spread and become life threatening.
All this is what brought him to hyperbaric oxygen therapy, available at the Wound Center, located at 300 Sierra College Drive, Suite 270, in Grass Valley. This physician-based center is designed to offer comprehensive wound care treatments that, according to Manager Michelle Harris, Nurse Practitioner, are equal to “other advanced wound healing centers in any large city across the U.S.”
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy subjects the body to concentrated, pure oxygen, which when breathed into the lungs under pressure carries highly oxygenated blood through the body to stimulate the body’s own healing functions.
Many people associate hyperbaric oxygen chambers with treating divers for the bends, according to Michael Moreno, the certified hyperbaric technician who has been working with these chambers for nearly a decade. But there are many other uses, he explained.
This therapy can assist in treating wounds that won’t heal, such as diabetic ulcers, crush injuries, gangrene, chronic bone infections, radiation injuries, skin grafts/flaps that are beginning to fail and other conditions.
“Most of what we treat needs oxygen,” he said. He noted that advances in computer targeted radiation therapy make it less likely that tissue surrounding a cancer will be injured during cancer treatment.
“But we do see people who may have had radiation 10 or 15 years ago who now find wounds won’t heal well because of damage done then,” he said.
Ryan went through 25 two-hour hyperbaric treatments before his tooth surgery, and will continue taking them “to give myself the most successful chance of healing.”
Although the body might react to increasing air pressure (the chambers can produce up to three times higher pressure than normal), Ryan describes the experience as comfortable and pleasant. Patients may watch television or sleep while in the chamber, while delivering healing oxygen to their bodies simply by breathing.
“After receiving HBO treatment, Ed is now sleeping better, is better hydrated, and is experiencing less pain. Our success rate is about 91 to 92 percent, which is consistently above the national average,” Moreno said.
For more information about the SNMH Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine Center, call 530-272-8619.
All physicians providing care for patients at SNMH are members of the medical staff and are independent practitioners, not employees of the hospital.