Team + Technology = Triumph
One year ago, Darcey Palmer didn’t know anything about hyperbaric medicine, its benefits or the fact that MaineGeneral has a comprehensive hyperbaric program at the Alfond Center for Health (ACH) in Augusta.
The Albion mother’s education began quickly and unexpectedly in late March 2020 when her daughter Addyson was attacked by one of the family’s dogs who became food aggressive and lunged at the then 10-year-old’s face, causing extensive facial trauma in seconds.
This happened late on a Friday night and the youngster was rushed to the ACH for emergency plastic surgery.
While Addyson’s facial reconstruction was successful, the Palmers and the medical staff they worked with became concerned that the effort could fail because of the extent of the trauma.
That’s when Darcey and her husband Jason began to learn about the potential benefits of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) provided
by MaineGeneral Wound Healing & Hyperbaric Medicine.
HBOT is a medical treatment that enhances a body’s natural healing process. Patients inhale 100 percent oxygen in a total body chamber
where atmospheric pressure is increased and controlled in a treatment called a “dive.”
Former MaineGeneral surgeon Kevin Price, a hyperbaric medicine specialist, discussed Addyson’s case with Hyperbaric Safety Officer Bruce Carleton and other members of the practice’s team.
Addyson’s situation was unique for the team because of its circumstances and her age. While the team had never treated a pediatric patient before – and one needing immediate, intensive treatment – Price thought the effort was worth trying given the alternative.
Complicating the matter was the timing of Addyson’s weekend injury, as the practice operates in an outpatient capacity from Monday to Friday during regular business hours.
Carleton said the team – many of whom had children, including some close in age to Addyson – very willingly followed Price’s lead and worked to accommodate her treatments throughout the weekend and well into the next week.
“It was a tough case because the odds of success were less than 50-50,” Carleton recalls. “Dr. Price said, ‘You’re not required, but I really want to try to do something for her.’ It says a lot about the team in their response of ‘No problem. Let’s do it!’ Those who had the time came in to help and Dr. Price and I were involved the whole time because we started it and wanted to see it through.”
Both Palmer and Carleton note that the former was very skeptical that the hyperbaric dive oxygen therapy would make a difference – for the first few days, anyway.
“I didn’t understand what it was going to do at first, but to see the color change – that skin flap went from black to pink – was phenomenal,” Palmer says. “And the staff was just amazing throughout her treatments. Honestly, without the hyperbaric chamber, she would have lost half her face.”
Carleton says equally amazing was Palmer’s transformation in becoming one of service’s biggest proponents.
“I explained to her that there are several benefits from the treatment – one is to lay down deep vessels so the surgical flap will take
better, which delivers blood oxygen to that area. When we first started the dives, everyone was convinced that it was going to die but we wanted to give it our best shot,” he says.
“On the third day, after Addyson’s second dive, the skin flap was pink and kept getting pink after every dive that followed. Her mom’s response was, ‘Oh my God, look at the color, she just opened her eyes and is looking at me.’”
Carleton notes that Palmer became very educated about the treatment process by her daughter’s final dive.
“We had a lot of time to talk during each hour-long treatment. She asked every question imagineable and then would go home, do some internet research and come back the next day with more questions,” he says. “And her daughter was a trooper and very brave through it all.”
Addyson, currently a sixth-grader at Albion Elementary School, will soon receive additional treatment at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Boston. And her family continues to be extremely grateful for the outstanding care she received at MaineGeneral.
“It was a great experience,” Palmer says. “The hyperbarics program is an amazing part of the hospital.” To learn more about HBOT, please visit www.mainegeneral.org/hyperbaric-oxygen-therapy.