Pure oxygen therapy offers hope for youngster with cerebral palsy

Kathy and Rick Jewell of Fort Frances are hoping an innovative form of therapy will improve the health of their five-year-old son, Brett, who has cerebral palsy.
The youngster, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at age two, is slated to begin hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) at the Hyperbaric Oxygen Corp. in Vancouver next week, where he will receive doses of 100 percent oxygen while inside a pressurized chamber.
The increased pressure will enable the tissues in his body to be flooded with oxygen. In this way, oxygen-starved cells can begin normal functioning and healing.
Cerebral palsy is a condition marked by weakness and impaired co-ordination of the limbs, typically caused by damage to the brain before or at birth, or during the first year of life.
Kathy Jewell will accompany her son in the oxygen chamber–which will simulate an environment 7.31 m (24 ft.) underwater–for his daily treatment of two one-hour sessions over a 15-day period.
“It’s not a cure-all but we are hoping we’re going to see results,” she said yesterday from their River Road West home.
Jewell is holding out hope the therapy will work for her son because his cerebral palsy is not severe. If anything, she’s hoping the treatment will help reduce the occurrences of tense posturing he often endures.
“[Medically] he’s one of the best kids with cerebral palsy. He can walk, talk–mentally he does really well,” she said, noting his senior kindergarten French Immersion teacher rated him in the top 10 of his class.
“The problems are in his balance and co-ordination, and fine motor skills,” she explained, noting Brett has spent countless hours in physical and occupational therapy to learn gross motor skills.
Jewell heard of oxygen therapy for children with cerebral palsy through her mom, who had been watching a program about it on CBC earlier this year.
She soon was in contact with Claudine Nadeau of Montreal, who had been interviewed for the TV program. She has two sons with severe cases of cerebral palsy.
Although Nadeau had been taking her sons to England for hyperbaric oxygen therapy, Jewell later was notified of the Vancouver site, which opened just last month.
Although HBOT can benefit other neurological problems, Hyperbaric Oxygen Corp. will only take children with cerebral palsy and is booked well into April.
But the innovative therapy comes with a hefty price tag. Therapy sessions cost $100 per hour, and coupled with accommodations and meals, the Jewells are looking at roughly $6,000 in expenses.
And the treatments are not covered by OHIP because hyperbaric oxygen therapy is still considered to be in the experimental stage.
Jewell wrote to all local service clubs for help in defraying the costs of the 15-day trip and received one reply back from the Fort Frances Lions Club, which donated $1,000.
The club also will stage a benefit for the Jewell family in February.
“I started to cry,” Jewell said upon receiving the Lions’ response letter.
But Jewell also noted that no matter the cost, she and her husband were determined to give their son every opportunity to overcome his disability.
“I don’t want him to look at me when he’s 20 years old and say ‘Why didn’t you try this’–especially when it’s proven to work,” she remarked.