Ron LaBoda is very glad to have lost part of his foot.
Where it not for a treatment he got at Valley General Hospital, it might well have been his leg.
LaBoda, who has diabetes, developed a wound on his foot several months ago that turned into an infection.
Soon it was more than an inch across.
“So I went to the doctor,” said LaBoda. “They looked at it right away. They were very concerned. There was the possibility I could lose my whole foot.”
But one thing was in LaBoda’s favor; Valley General Hospital has a hyperbaric chamber treatment program.
A hyperbaric chamber looks a bit like a CAT scan machine, in that it’s a tube into which the patient goes.
But once a person is in a hyperbaric chamber, it is flooded with pure oxygen and pressurized.
“The pressure drives the oxygen into the bloodstream to bind to the hemoglobin and diffuse into the plasma,” said Dr. Jonathan Borjeson, who is an expert in hyperbaric treatment. “What that extra oxygen allows for is the cellular level tissue to work at a higher level.”
Certain cells need more oxygen to function better and that allows wounds to heal more quickly, especially for people with borderline circulation disorders such as diabetes, he said.
Every weekday, for two hours a day, LaBoda got into the chamber and watched TV through the glass top as the pressure and oxygen did its work.
“You hear a low hiss all the time, and your ears pop big time,” said LaBoda.
Within two weeks, LaBoda began to notice that his wound was shrinking.
There were other benefits, too, although temporary; he noticed that his vision improved, he said.
“It got to where I wasn’t wearing my glasses,” he said. “But that’s temporary.”
The benefit to his foot will be more permanent, he hopes.
Ultimately, all he will lose is a big toe.
“Hopefully I shouldn’t have to do it again,” he said.
In mid-April, he finished his treatments and went to dinner to celebrate.
LaBoda is only one of a large number of people to benefit from the treatment. Valley General Hospital has two hyperbaric chambers and they are in use about 180 times a month.
They are useful for treating wounds associated with diabetes, with radiation burns form cancer treatment, and some flesh-eating bacteria cases, as well.
LaBoda said that he feels lucky; he used to work at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland, and although that hospital (which is now affiliated with VGH) is much larger, it didn’t offer the treatment.
“Monroe is very lucky to have this here,” he said. “I’m pretty proud of Valley General.”