Tuesday, September 22, 2020
Hyperbarics of Sun Valley Offers Free Treatments to Veterans and Others
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Phil Rainey sits in a submarine-like hyperbaric chamber.
   
Tuesday, January 21, 2020
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

The 32-year-old sergeant had been involved in six separate explosions resulting in two concussions and other minor injuries while in service. When he was discharged in 2005, he was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and Post Traumatic Stress.

For the next nine years he suffered blackouts, insomnia, severe migraines lasting three day at a time, joint pain, severe irritability that would last a couple days and low energy.

He dealt with it by self-medicating with alcohol and Hydrocodone, which had been prescribed for him.

 
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The Mermaid Lounge, as it’s called, can seat a few people at a time.
 

Then Hyperbarics of Sun Valley offered him a new prescription: Oxygen therapy.

After 16 treatments of pure oxygen administered in a pressurized chamber, his blackouts and migraines vanished. He was able to sleep through the night and his joint pain decreased to the point where he needed no pain medication. His focus and processing ability significantly improved. Any irritability lasted a half-hour at most. And he had regained his energy.

Wounded warriors like this one are getting the opportunity to tackle traumatic brain injuries, post traumatic stress and other injuries through free treatments offered through the Hyperbaric Health & Wellness Foundation founded by Hyperbarics of Sun Valley Owner Phil Rainey for veterans and other men, women and children suffering from chronic illnesses and pain-related issues.

The treatments for vets are funded by the Arlene and Michael Rosen Foundation, which has provided $350,000 this year with the promise of $150,000 for the next four years. The Albertsons Foundation also recently pledged $100,000 for the program.

“There’s emerging research suggesting that Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy can be a useful tool in helping those experiencing Post Traumatic Stress to improve their mental health and reduce risks of substance use disorders,” said Jason Satterfield, the executive director of the foundation.  “We here at the Arlene and Michael Rosen Foundation wanted to help create the program for veterans as a way of honoring and supporting the men and women who have sacrificed so much in service of our country.”

Hyperbarics of Sun Valley opened in Hailey seven years ago under the direction of Phil Rainey, a certified hyperbaric technologist who became familiar with the treatment as a Navy-trained deep-sea diver. Hyperbarics had its genesis in treating life-threatening bends that scuba divers suffered.

Rainey, who is also an EMT who has worked for the local fire department for 20 years, moved his Hyperbarics to Hailey’s Gateway Building on River Street a year ago. The setting has proved perfect for his treatment as it offers a contemplative pond and Zen garden and a two-room apartment for vets from out of town to stay.

About 20 percent of service members return with either depression, Post Traumatic Stress or traumatic brain injuries. Seven million veterans are facing challenges due to PTS alone. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has made some hyperbaric treatments available to a very limited group of veterans.  Civilian clinics like Rainey’s are stepping up to offer it for others.

Rainey hopes to treat 25 vets a year.

“At least 22 veterans take their own lives a day—that’s 8,000 veterans per year. And many more attempt  suicide,” he said. “What people don’t get is that those attempts are a cry for help--these guys know how to use a gun.

Rainey added that many veterans are prescribed medication that the Food and Drug Administration has labeled with a black-box warning, as they are associated with the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior.

“If the public were told that 22 service men and women died in combat every day, no one would tolerate that. These guys are in combat, fighting traumatic injuries,” he said.

The oxygen treatments provided a biological treatment for the brain treating both psychological and physical manifestations of injuries, Rainey said. And they don’t have to be the aftermath of an IED blast. They can include the effects of chemical warfare or even the toxins from the burning of waste in burn pits at outposts overseas.

“The brain doesn’t heal like the rest of the body because it doesn’t get enough oxygen,” said Rainey. “Oxygen is one of the body’s building blocks. We supply the oxygen and the oxygen triggers stem cell reproduction and regeneration, while cutting down on inflammation.”

The oxygen saturates the body, reaching damaged areas that lacked blood supply and oxygen and helping to grow new blood vessels and neurons, Rainey added. Over time, the oxygen flow stimulates the body’s healing processes, even allowing recovery of cognitive and neurological functioning without surgery or drugs.

Oxygen does that by combining with glucose to create ATP, the energy-carrying molecule found in cells. ATP fires the cells to function properly.

Vets who take part in Rainey’s program first see Dr. Nancy Parry, the medical director of the clinic. They then don a 100 percent cotton plastic hoodie and enter one of the chambers where they are hooked up to oxygen.

They then breathe in 100 percent medical grade oxygen at 10 to 15 times the amount they would take in normally. They sit for an hour and a half, watching a movie or reading a book.

They receive two treatments a day for 20 days. In addition, they’re offered the chance for counseling with  licensed clinical social worker Cecilee Heath. Some also meet with a nutritionist and groups like Higher Ground Sun Valley, which provides them with therapeutic recreational activities.

“We take them to the grocery store and show them what products can help them attain health. We’re hoping to work with some local chefs,” said Bas Verheijen, the executive director of Hyperbarics of Sun Valley.

Hyperbarics just treated a returning vet from Logan, Utah, who was suffering from severe depression and anxiety. When he came, he could not even go out in public.

In addition to administering oxygen treatments, Verheijen introduced him to Higher Ground Sun Valley representatives who took him to the Veterans Day luncheon at the Senior Connection and to church. He has progressed to the point where he’s even getting out on his own.

 “For some this treatment is helpful. For others, it’s lifesaving,” said Rainey.

Hyperbarics of Sun Valley has treated local vets, as well as some from Boise. It’s also reaching out through programs like Albertsons’ Mission43 program, the Purple Heart Foundation and Green Beret Foundation.

“Hyperbarics is not a silver bullet,” Rainey said. “But it can help people begin to feel better. And maybe that will lead to them seeking out other therapies that can help them live better.”

NOT JUST FOR VETS

When a Sun Valley ski racer sustained a leg bruise that would keep him out of his ski boots for six weeks, he underwent three days of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. He headed to a national competition that weekend where he won his event.

Hyperbarics of Sun Valley works with a lot of kids on ski, hockey and soccer teams, Phil Rainey said.

“If we can address something quickly, we can reverse it quickly,” he said. “I suffered a concussion skiing on New Year’s Day and it was serious enough that I passed out that night. I took three treatments back to back and was fine.”

Hyperbaric oxygen treatment can help cancer patients recover from radiation treatment and it can help those suffering from fibromyalgia. It’s been used for multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, dementia, skin infections and wounds. And the FDA has approved it to treat such things as carbon monoxide poisoning.

Nationally, many NFL players have personal hyperbaric chambers. And some hospitals perform surgery in hyperbaric chambers. One hospital in Tel Aviv treats hundreds of patients a day in hyperbaric chambers.

 “You’d be surprised how many people in this valley have their own personal hyperbaric chambers,” said Rainey.

Treatments start at $200. At least 13 conditions are covered by insurance.

For more information, visit www.hhwfoundation.org, call 208-480-3062 or email info@hhwfoundation.com.

 
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Bas Verheijen shows off a hyperbaric chamber designed for one. It resembles a bed encased in a glass tube.
 

 
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Phil Rainey started a nonprofit to provide treatment for those who need hyperbaric oxygen treatment and can’t afford it.
 

 
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Technicians often learn the ropes in the Navy and diving programs.
 
 

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