WNV Survivor Uses Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

After hours of therapy, Dallas woman moving, talking again

A West Nile virus survivor says an unconventional treatment helped get her back on her feet.

Elizabeth Young, of Dallas, said she has started to reclaim her life over the past three weeks with hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Young enters a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, where she breathes in pure oxygen for about 90 minutes per session.

"It seems like such an odd thing to do, but it isn't," she said. "It's just wonderful."

Young said her life froze after she contracted the virus in August.

"I couldn't communicate, even hand signals," she said. "I couldn't walk, move my body, get out of the bed. It just deteriorates your brain."

Young tried conventional therapy after leaving the hospital but still deals with daily struggles such as her short-term memory.

"I have to write everything down," she said.

Family friend and physician Dr. Alfred Johnson, who practices at Johnson Medical Associates in Richardson, said he has used hyperbaric treatments to treat people with brain injuries for about eight years.

He said that oxygen is "food" for cells and helps stimulate growth and repair.

"The hyperbaric, it speeds that process up, the recovery process," he said.

The results, which have become popular even among professional athletes, are not immediate.

"It takes a while," Young said. "It doesn't happen over one or two sessions."

Still, she has seen a marked improvement in motion and her ability to get through a daily routine without exhaustion or being forced to nap, she said.

"I chalk it up totally to hyperbaric -- I have my life back," she said.

Hyperbaric oxygen treatment has also become prevalent in treating traumatic brain injuries, including those of veterans home from war.

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