Up in Flames

I don’t know about you but “up in flames” are not words I associate with medical treatment… at least they weren’t until recently.

Several years ago when one of my odd conditions was finally diagnosed I started doing research. This disease leaves one extremity with skin that has a red lacy “rash” across it but in the reddest places small ulcers will open and the skin will begin to die.

In case you’re wondering, the pain of your flesh dying is something that there isn’t a pain med on the planet that can cut through to give one any sort of quality of life.

Three years.

Trust me, you don’t want to know.

Living with the pain of dying tissue along with the widespread catastrophic clotting was one of the catalysts that left me with no choice but to amputate my left leg below the knee. In the research I did when I finally found a diagnosis for the painful red lace and its sores there was very little I could do to treat this disease but among the treatments was the hyperbaric chamber.

Anyone who has ever received their dive certification or done even tourist level dives at some beach somewhere on vacation should know what the hyperbaric chamber is, but in case you’re unaware, please let me explain:

The hyperbaric chamber is a small room where the pressure inside is increased to be equivalent to specific depths below sea level where you sit for several hours breathing pressurized air or pure oxygen. If you’re diving, as you descend the pressure increases. At sea level the pressure on your body is equivalent to one atmosphere (the weight and pressure of the atmosphere between your body standing on some sandy beach at sea level and outer space) but by 33 feet below the surface the pressure has doubled what it was standing at sea level to 2 ATMs. The pressure below the surface is enough to alter the size of gases molecularly. Not terribly interesting… unless you consider doing some high speed ascent to the surface like you saw in some action movie or another to without giving your body the opportunity to expel those gas molecules at various depths. As you rise to the surface the pressure lessens and the molecules increase in size so ascending too quickly with expanding molecules has the potential to give you mild joint pain or, you know, paralysis and death and can be treated with time in a hyperbaric chamber where one has the opportunity to safely “detoxify” one’s body at pressure.

In recent years the hyperbaric chamber has been used in the treatment of many conditions ranging from traumatic brain injuries to slow healing wounds. What that looks like as a patient is two hours in pressure equivalent to a depth of 33 feet below sea level breathing pure oxygen (either pumped into the room itself or into a plastic hood you must wear over your head) in a capsule alone or small room (roughly the size of a small bathroom) with a half a dozen other patients and at least one medical technician where if you’re lucky you’ll watch the first 90% of a movie and and hope that the whole place doesn’t go up in flames. Before you’re allowed to “dive,” as they call it, you are given a long list of things you can’t:

Can’t shower before the chamber treatment on the same day… the whole place might go up in flames.

Can’t use lotion or chapstick the same day… the whole place might go up in flames.

No makeup because flames.

No jewelry… sparks and flames.

No nail polish… flames.

No contact lenses… up in flames!

No electronics…

No paper or books…

No fabric except for the scrubs you’re given by the staff because apparently yoga pants under two atmospheres pressure with high oxygen can go the fuck up in flames.

Basically everything can cause the whole damn chamber to go up in flames.


At least if it does I’m already at a hospital with a burn unit.

11 thoughts on “Up in Flames

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  1. I want to say something eloquent or at least, I don’t know. All I can think is, fuck…..this seriously sucks. And, Wow…. you are a totally amazing kick ass super hero!!!!! And funny…funny as hell, even as it all goes up in flames. I completely get why everyone is in love with you!!!!!

    Liked by 2 people

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