Billy Golden of Garden City isn't your average 12 year old. After immersing himself in a paper about scuba diving for a school project, Billy's interest in the underwater sport wasn't just piqued – it was settled. So during a subsequent family vacation, a determined Billy and his father, Jim, gave it a try, and loved it.
Their desire to pursue their basic scuba diving certifications was ignited and soon, Billy and his dad traveled to a reputable diving facility in Pennsylvania, where they went through all of the necessary testing. They were successful, and shortly after, the two decided to go for their advanced certification, which would require them to complete a 60 foot dive. Somewhere along the way however, Billy lost sight of his father and broke protocol – shooting up about 30 feet to locate his dad. Though he didn’t immediately feel any physical effects, this very action would soon be the impetus for Billy to seek care at NYU Winthrop Hospital .
While at school just one day after the big dive, Billy began to experience severe joint pain in his elbow, wrists and knees. Billy, having become immersed in all things diving, had his suspicions as to what it could be and called his mom, who immediately got in touch with the Diver’s Alert Network (DAN) – the diving industry’s largest association dedicated to scuba diving safety. DAN has a hotline for medical issues related to diving, and they suggested she take Billy for a medical evaluation.
As the Hospital of choice for her family, Liz Golden didn’t hesitate to take her son to NYU Winthrop, which offers a comprehensive array of hyperbaric services, including 24/7 hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). In fact, the Wound Healing Center and Hyperbaric Medicine Program at NYU Winthrop is accredited for HBOT by the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society – a testament to the Hospital's commitment to patient safety and upholding the highest performance standards when treating patients with hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
Among the members of NYU Winthrop's Wound Program team are (l-r) Alan Katz, MD,FACEP, FAAEM, Attending Physician in the Emergency Department, who treated Billy; Harold Brem, MD, FACS, Chief of the Division of Wound Healing and Regenerative Medicine; and Scott Gorenstein, MD, FACEP, Clinical Director of the Wound Healing Center at NYU Winthrop.
"HBOT has been in use for many years to treat wounds that have resisted standard wound care, including diabetic leg and foot ulcers, wounds that have been skin grafted and not healed completely, those caused by radiation therapy, and wounds with serious infections, such as osteomyelitis," said Scott Gorenstein, MD, FACEP, Clinical Director of the Wound Healing Center at NYU Winthrop. "It is also the primary treatment for decompression sickness – a disorder caused by the formation of nitrogen bubbles in the blood stream and tissues following a sudden drop in surrounding pressure. The condition is characterized by joint pain, skin irritation, cramps and numbness, and in severe cases, paralysis."
Fortunately for the Goldens, a skilled nurse in NYU Winthrop’s dedicated Pediatric Emergency Department, who also happened to be a master diver, was able to share his personal experiences as a diver and the experiences of friends who had suffered from decompression sickness. Shortly after, wound healing and regenerative medicine physician, Alan Katz, MD, diagnosed Billy with decompression sickness and immediately referred him for HBOT.
"Bubbles that may be formed while scuba diving may block blood (oxygen) flow to a particular body region, which may lead to localized damage," said Dr. Katz. "Inhaling 100 percent oxygen at pressure in the Hyperbaric Chamber allows the bubbles to shrink and progress through the circulation and be filtered out by the lungs. In addition, hyperbaric oxygen markedly lessons any tissue injury and allows the body to grow new vessels and heal itself."
Thanks to the 24/7 availability of HBOT therapy at NYU Winthrop, Billy didn't have to wait long to begin treatment. In fact, within minutes, he was transported to the lower level of the Hospital, where he was placed in one of the facility’s four hyperbaric chambers. Billy remained in the hyperbaric chamber for approximately five hours, watching movies and listening to music during treatment.
The increased atmospheric pressure in the chamber proved effective, reducing the size of the nitrogen bubbles and dissolving them directly into his bloodstream. Oxygen-supersaturated blood displaced the nitrogen and reached deep into oxygen-deprived tissues, providing an almost instantaneous healing.
"Billy had an immediate response and by 11 PM that night, he was home resting comfortably in his bed," said Mrs. Golden.
Today, Billy is completely free of decompression sickness and despite this bump in the road, his affinity for scuba diving remains. His mom, grateful for the care and the responsiveness of the NYU Winthrop team, is glad that she "came home from the Hospital that day with a happy and healthy child. What more could I ask for?"
For more information about the Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine Program at NYU Winthrop, call 1-866-WINTHROP or visit www.winthrop.org.