Here’s another installment from the intrepid critical care/hyperbaric physician who started “COVID Diaries” nearly a year ago. I am not identifying her so that she can speak more openly about her experiences. Now she is telling the evolving story of treating COVID patients with HBOT.
The first patient that I treated with HBOT for COVID was a very sweet but very sick Hispanic lady in her 60’s. She was willing to try anything that might avoid intubation. When I put her in the chamber, her respiratory rate was 50 (folks, that is HIGH) and she was working so hard to breathe that she could not eat or sleep. While in the chamber, she was dramatically better. Her breathing rate went down to 24 breaths per minute, and she was sipping water, watching television, and napping. But despite HBOT, she didn’t get better. She eventually got intubated, and she died.
My second patient was an even sicker 29 year old woman with a dense left-sided COVID pneumonia, on high flow nasal cannula. She almost couldn’t tolerate the hyperbaric treatment, she was so claustrophobic. However, by the third treatment she went from requiring 100% Oxygen at 50 liters per minute (L/min) down to 6 L/min by nasal cannula. By the 5th HBOT treatment she was on 1 L/min of Oxygen by nasal cannula, and went home the following day. Thank God we had a win. The next half-dozen patients were also successes. They got much better and did not require intubation. This gave us the courage to keep going.
The hospitalists caring for the COVID patients who were deteriorating caught on to the fact that HBOT made their patients better and the patients treated with HBOT were discharged home in 7-10 days instead of lingering in the hospital for weeks, which was typical. We also thought the other treatment interventions worked better in conjunction with HBOT (e.g. Remdesivir, Decadron, aspirin and anticoagulation, etc.). However, as the weeks have dragged on in the second COVID wave, none of us are convinced that anything other than steroids and anticoagulation really do much. We are down to steroids, aspirin and anticoagulation, for God’s sake. We might as well be practicing critical care in the 1950’s. HBOT is better than those options, and a lot better than mechanical ventilation.