Second email from a physician treating COVID-19 patients near the Tyson processing plant.
Day 2: We Haven’t Seen Anything Like This Illness
I would love to give details about how absolutely incredible my experience is in this city, but it’s 2:15 AM and I hope to start again at 8 AM. My goal is just to let you know that HBOT is proving to be an incredible treatment for COVID-19.
We are treating very sick patients – sometimes their pulse ox (oxygen saturation, CF) is so low it’s better not to look at it. I am in awe of what Dr. X and Dr. Y were able to get accomplished in getting the IRB (Institutional Review Board, CF) and hospital onboard. I can honestly say, I don’t think the majority of us, from physicians to nurses to all medical personnel, have seen anything like the illness that COVID-19 creates.
I have watched as, in one week, a once-quiet hospital filled with COVID-19 patients. There are now 4 COVID-19 wards, the ICU is full and the intubated patients are not doing well at all. What we are doing with HBOT has everyone’s attention. The medical staff are calling from the ER, calling from the floor when a patient desaturates and they have to increase the oxygen. While such an incredibly lethal disease, all of the resistance that I have met against HBOT for 10 years now, has become “I just wanted to see if this patient is a candidate for HBOT.” One physician ran his whole list of patients by me: 6 of the 10 patients I will see tomorrow.
Shout All You Want!
Prior to treatment, Patient #1 couldn’t say two words without being short of breath. He did so well with his first treatment that when I annoyed him by waking him up to check on him, he was able to give me a rant so long that the interpreter had to stop him 3 times to translate for me. I have never enjoyed a patient being mad at me as much as I enjoyed him. He had enough oxygen to talk that long! This morning, he asked for another hyperbaric treatment. Afterwards, we were in his room to treat his roommate (all hospital rooms are now semi-private – two COVID-19 patients in each room) and he was yelling, trying to tell Dr X what his roommate was saying. He went from not being able to speak at all to being able to yell in 3 days – rather than being intubated.
Patient 2: still not out of the woods by a long shot. They were ready to intubate him in the ER. He has had 3 HBOT treatments and is still very ill. But no vent yet!
Patient 3: roommate of Patient #1. Coughing causes him to drop to the 70s on his sats, which can be lethal. I truly wondered if we were making a mistake by trying to treat him with HBOT – he might have been too unstable. Within just a few minutes of starting HBOT, he stopped coughing and looked incredibly peaceful. He got anxious eventually, so we shortened his HBOT. He came out of the chamber and started coughing again, dropping his oxygen saturation, and was visibly frustrated that he was still so sick. However, while treating Patient #4 I called to check on him. His nurse said he was sound asleep, saturation 100% and his coughing stopped just a few minutes after we left him in his hospital.
Patient 4: alert, talking, no distress, pulse ox in the mid 70s. Unreal. Treated him at 2.0 ATA (Atmospheres Absolute – two times sea level atmospheric pressure, CF) for 90 minutes. He felt great, pulse ox low 90s. His English is the best of the patients treated so far, and that means he was able to tell me that his breathing is much easier and much less painful.
HBOT is Incredible
We are recording respiratory rates as low as 5 when the patient’s oxygen saturations are as low as 30% to 60%. That doesn’t make sense at all, but that’s because they are dog-panting – taking such rapid shallow breaths that the monitors are not even registering these as breaths. The irony is, after HBOT, their respiratory rate is in the 30s and if you didn’t understand the issue, you would think we made them worse (because it appears that their respiratory rates INCREASED after HBOT, CF), but in fact, after HBOT they are able to take enough of a breath that the sensors can actually record it, so in fact, they are much better. Every patient is a unique medical experience – an “N = 1”.
Since the early experience in places like New York, physicians have managed to get out the word that 80% of COVID-19 patients on ventilators die. The first 8 patients who were intubated in this city are not doing well at all, either. However, based on what we have seen so far, it appears that HBOT can dramatically change the clinical course for at least some COVID-19 patients.
I think people here recognize that HBOT is going to be vital to their COVID-19 treatments from now on. (This would actually be a great time to start talking to insurance companies for HBOT coverage for COVID-19 pneumonia!!)
I hope everyone is well and I thank each of you for your contributions to helping make this happen, and for the future of HBOT because of it!