Advances in Healthcare

My New Drug of Choice

Hyperbaric Oxygen TreatmentBelieve it or not, oxygen is my new drug of choice.

Naturally, I’ve been breathing it since birth, but each breath contains only 21 percent oxygen. When you need help healing, you go with the hard stuff, 100 proof.

That’s why I rise before sunup each weekday morning, drive to Roper Hospital where the staff loads me into one of three hyperbaric oxygen chambers for a two-hour treatment.

Once in the glass chamber, the door is sealed tight and the pressure of 100 percent oxygen builds in around you. Sound scary? It’s really not. Especially when you consider the benefits.

My issue is post-radiation wounding in the bladder after prostate cancer surgery eight years ago. This one little spot of dead tissue began causing me urinary trouble a few months ago. After seven surgical procedures didn’t fix it, we contacted Dr. Lance Davis who came to my rescue.

Dr. Davis learned the value of hyperbaric therapy while serving as a doc in the Naval Reserve. He was introduced to HBO when he went to the 9-week Diving Medical Officer School in Panama City, Florida. However, he also learned how beneficial this treatment could be for patients like me, with soft tissue issues damaged by radiation, as well as other patients with severe diabetic foot wounds that are slow to heal.

“Radiation and long-term high blood sugar can destroy capillaries,” Dr. Davis said. “The chamber provides so much oxygen around where the capillaries were that the cells that rebuild capillaries wake up and start to go to work again.”

But it doesn’t happen overnight.

In my case, I’ve been through 32 treatments and will probably have more than 40 before the oxygen is forced back into my damaged tissues and heals the bleeding wound that has been problematic.

If that sounds like a lot, consider the fact that my movie watching has increased considerably. As soon as I arrive each morning, I hand nurses Nancy Parrish and Matt Gamble my movie disc of the day and they load me into the glass chamber and turn on the DVD player.

Which is another critical point I want to make. For those who have claustrophobic issues, this is not your MRI kind of chamber. This chamber is all glass so you can see out everywhere and watch your movie or your favorite TV shows or take a nap if you so choose.

When it’s over, you just hop out, get dressed and go about your daily business.

Are there side effects? Only one that I can tell – when I finish my treatment, I feel like a million dollars, which is better than any other drug I’ve ever tried.

By: Ken Burger, former Post and Courier sports columnist and local author. Reach Ken at

Editor’s note: Ken Burger is writing a series of blog posts about his current treatment for prostate cancer. This is the eighth in the series. Missed the first post? Read Milestone Moments now. 

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