Hyperbaric oxygen therapy sessions are as simple as you lying down and watching a movie or taking a nap. Many patients say it’s the most relaxing part of their day, and they look forward to hyperbarics as a break from all of the demands of their lives.
We also want you to feel very comfortable with the process, so this article describes in quite a bit of detail what you can expect at each step of the way, from the time you first call, through your first treatment session.
In preparation for your first treatment, you'll spend a few minutes on the phone with Laura Jean RN, our wonderful nurse or David Roberts, our Senior Hyperbaric Technician. Laura and David ask you questions about your medical history, and take the time to answer your questions. They discuss our process and whether hyperbarics is a good option for you. They also talk about how hyperbarics works, and help address any difficulties or concerns you might have. They will set up your appointment for the intake and your first hyperbaric treatment.
For your intake before your first treatment, please remember two things:
We ask you to eat a snack or meal within an hour or so before you come in. This is important to give you body lots of protein particularly when healing injuries and raise your blood sugar high enough for your treatment. Hyperbaric oxygen uses much of the fuel available in your blood stream to heal you when you are in the chamber.
2. Bring your relevant info.As you prepare for your intake and first hyperbaric session, please remember to bring your identification, insurance cards if applicable and any additional paperwork, such as from your prescribing physician.
Your First Hyperbaric Treatment
From the time you arrive until you leave, you will be treated with care and respect, and you will have a relaxing time as you heal.
When you arrive, you will see that we are happy you made it in for your first treatment. Before the first treatment, some patients have felt a bit nervous. That's normal, and there is nothing to worry about. You can take a look at our video to get more familiar with the process.
For your first visit, we will be in the clinic to greet you, and we'll invite you to come in to a private room for a discussion and enjoy our comfortable, relaxed atmosphere. You can feel free to bring a family member or friend with you. We want to meet them too. We are proud of our clinics, as we built them specifically to make them feel inviting and to help you feel comfortable. And let's be honest: who really likes the typical cold, sterile medical clinics?
We believe that your environment is also important to your healing process, as are our staff and your treatment. Thus, our sofas are comfy and our friendly staff will greet you and offer you coffee, tea, water or a snack. Please try to arrive 30-45 minutes before your first hyperbaric treatment session for your intake. We set it up this way to ensure you have plenty of time and are not rushed through your scheduled.
Your intake typically takes place right before your first hyperbaric treatment, and is done by David Roberts, our Senior Hyperbaric Technician of 20 years, or Laura Jean our RN. This is the time we take to review with you what you are expecting, your treatment and how hyperbaric oxygen heals your specific condition. We will tell you all about your upcoming treatments and answer any further questions you might have. We will also go over your medical history again and the paperwork to ensure that you understand your payment and insurance coverage as well as how HBOT will heal your body and often get you back to doing the things and time with the people you love.
Orientation to Your Chamber
You will be shown your hyperbaric chamber. Each chamber has a different name, so feel free to ask which one is yours. We give you our comfy and roomy cotton pajamas to change into. You can wear your underwear underneath, but we ask you to take off most of your jewelry. Don’t worry if you cannot take of a ring or necklace; we will handle that. Also at this time, we'll suggest you use the restroom, and if you'd like to watch a movie, pick it out of the hundreds of DVDs we have available.
Your hyperbaric technician will show you the ropes and offer you water to take into the chamber in case you get thirsty and to help you clear your ears if you need it. You will get pillows and blankets to make you warm and relaxed. Your technician will help you into your bed. Some people think of their chamber as a cozy nest to sleep in or where they watch movies. We had one mom say she would pay just to lay in the quiet comfort of our chamber just to rest, even if it wasn’t a healing treatment! 😆
Your tech will make double sure to answer all of your questions before you enter the chamber. Once you're set, they turn on the movie and close the door. Your technician will never leave you alone in the chamber room. A trained technician is always present to hear you and see you at all times.
Once the door closes, you hear a whooshing sound, as air is piped into your chamber, which is how your chamber pressurizes. In the first few minutes, you may (or may not) feel the changes in air pressure in your ears. In 7-15 minutes, the whooshing sound stops, and you reach your treatment pressure. Once the chamber is pressurized, it gets quieter, and it's easier to hear your movie! Your chamber remains at your prescribed treatment pressure for the duration of your session.
How to clear your ears
Our patients often tell us they don’t notice the pressure changes. Many say the feeling is similar to that of driving over the mountains to Santa Cruz or Half Moon Bay, or even going up in a plane. You may hear a popping sensation in your ears, and that's normal. Generally, your ears are the only part of the body sensitive enough to notice the pressure change. Your ears get used to the pressure changes over the first few treatments.
Your technician always stays in the room with you, talking and communicating throughout your session. The whole process should feel quite comfortable. We're there to make sure you are always safe and that we can help make adjustments to increase your comfort.
When you reach full treatment pressure, your technician lets you know. Some patients sleep, some watch their favorite movie or TV show, and others trade jokes with their technician. Some even practice singing their favorite songs – so if you sing, you wouldn’t be the first! When your time is up, the technician lets you know by telling you they will “bring you up," which is similar to the pressure changes that occur when you're diving, and you rise back to the surface. When the chamber begins depressurizing, you will hear another whooshing sound for approximately 5-10 minutes, depending on your treatment protocol. When the pressure has all been released, your technician opens the door and slides your bed out. They ask you how your treatment went, and that's it: your treatment is complete.
Emerging from the chamber
Some patients say they need a few minutes to orient themselves before they get on with their day. Therefore, we suggest that after changing back into your street clothes, you sit a few minutes on our comfy coach and relax. We are happy to bring you a juice or snack if you would like. Although your treatment will feel easy and relaxed while in the hyperbaric chamber, hyperbarics also places your body into overdrive as it repairs, mobilizes cells to reproduce. It helps you metabolize and has and many more taxing processes that are also immensely healing. This process can deplete the available sugars in your bloodstream, making you feel a bit tired. Therefore, we'll check in on you, and we hope you ask for a snack if you need it, to raise your blood sugar to a comfortable level. If you are diabetic, we check your sugars to ensure that they are high enough before you get into the chamber, and then out again. The hyperbaric treatment can cause a drop in your blood sugars of up to 100 units during one treatment. We of course talk with you about all these issues and more during your intake.
After your treatment, you change back into your street cloths. Depending on your disease or injury, you may feel pain relief and/or reduced swelling, as well as other pleasant after-effects. We ask you to be gentle with yourself and not push yourself, and ask your loved ones to be gentle with you as well. Your pain relief may be so immense you want to go do lots of fatiguing activities or even sports. Please do not do anything to reinjure yourself or exhaust yourself. While any pain you have had will likely feel significantly less, your body still needs more time to heal. You may find yourself needing more sleep or more rest during your hyperbaric treatments. That's normal, so make sure to give your body what it needs, including plenty of rest. Most importantly, please always ask us if you have any concerns. We are here to help you heal comfortably, completely and with love and care.