Overcoming Paralysis

Flushing the brain's stroke-damaged tissue with pure oxygen, even years after a stroke, can make the difference between disability and healthy functioning.

Every emergency room in the United States should have a hyperbaric oxygen chamber and every physician in the U.S. should be trained in its use, says David A. Steenblock, M.S., D.O., director of the Health Restoration Medical Center in Mission Viejo, California. Dr. Steenblock is well qualified to make this kind of sweeping statement. He is one of the country's leading practitioners in the therapeutic use of oxygen under pressure to dramatically reduce the effects of stroke and brain injury.

"If you can get more oxygen to the brain within the first 24 hours of having a stroke, you can often stop most of the damage and salvage a great deal of brain tissue, eliminating 70-80% of damage," Dr. Steenblock says. "Treating the patient by getting more oxygen to the brain during the first 3 weeks after the stroke makes it still possible to minimize the damage." In fact, Dr. Steenblock has produced unexpected positive outcomes, treating people as much as 15 years after their stroke.

Stroke, which is the sudden disturbance of blood flow to the brain, is the third leading single cause of death in the U.S., and the leading cause of adult disability, with an estimated annual medical cost of $30 billion. Approximately 500,000 Americans suffer a stroke every year.

In general terms, a stroke can be described as a "heart attack" in the brain. Most commonly, an artery, blocked by a blood clot, interrupts the flow of blood and oxygen to the region of the brain, producing tissue death by starving the brain cells of oxygen. This is called an ischemic stroke, meaning there is decreased blood flow, and it represents about 70% of stroke cases.

The term embolism means the blockage of an artery by an embolus, which can be a blood clot, foreign object, air or gas bubble; this type represents about 15-20% of cases. About 10-15% of strokes are caused by an aneurysm, which is bleeding within the brain, such as from an injury.

In the U.S., there are about 1.7 million stroke survivors at any given moment, and 75% of these are aged 55-84. Only about 10% of stroke survivors are fit enough to return to work without a disability; 40% have a mild disability, 40% are severely disabled, and 10% must be hospitalized.

While drug companies continue to search for a "cure" for acute stroke, an effective way to restore a damaged brain to healthy function already exists: oxygen.

Since 1971, over 1,000 cases demonstrating a 40-100% rate of improvement for stroke victims receiving oxygen under pressure have been reported in scientific journals. Given the facts about positive outcomes, Dr. Steenblock encourages U.S. physicians to consider the merits of this approach, as revealed in the following cases.

Barbara, aged 62, had a stroke that completely paralyzed her right arm and left her severely bent over, limping, with a pain in her right leg, and unable to control her urination. She had physical therapy and took conventional prescription medications, but nothing helped her. Barbara remained in this condition for 42 months before seeing Dr. Steenblock.

Over the course of 12 weeks, he started Barbara on a series of 60 treatments in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. Hyperbaric means pure oxygen under pressure. It is delivered to the body at an atmospheric pressure 1.5 to 1.75 times stronger than what we normally breathe. Barbara wore an oxygen mask and lay down inside a sealed chamber that resembles a miniature submarine.

Barbara breathed pure oxygen for an hour. The higher atmospheric pressure in side the chamber literally forced more oxygen into her blood. In fact, hyperbaric oxygen can deliver 8-9 times more oxygen to the capillaries compared to breathing normal air, says Dr. Steenblock. "With 100% oxygen under pressure, oxygen is dissolved into the red blood cells and into body and brain fluids."

The goal is to get as much oxygen into the brain as possible. This helps to revive oxygen-starved brain tissue that was damaged but not entirely destroyed by the stroke, Dr. Steenblock explains. The principle holds true for traumatic brain injury as well, such as people sustain from accidents. Some of the brain tissue is irreversibly destroyed, as brain cells deprived of oxygen usually die within 10 minutes, but a larger portion is potentially revivable.

A stroke produces most of its damage through swelling and damage to surrounding brain tissue, yet this tissue lies dormant, not dead but not active either, surviving on as little as 15-20% of its normal oxygen supply. If you can restore blood flow and flood this area with oxygen, there is a strong likelihood of restoring these "hibernating" brain cells to function, 5 or even 10 years after a stroke, says Dr. Steenblock.

Dr. Steenblock gave Barbara a 2-month course of chelation therapy consisting of 23 infusions to improve her general circulation. Her carotid artery, which is the main artery that passes through the neck, supplying blood to the brain, was about 50% blocked; in addition, Barbara had high blood pressure and atherosclerosis (arteries lined and clogged with deposits) - conditions that contributed strongly to her stroke, says Dr. Steenblock. Barbara also received about 2 hours of physical therapy 5 days a week and went on a nutritional supplementation program.

After one month of treatment, Barbara showed clear signs of improvement. Her walking improved noticeably and, instead of shuffling, she could raise her right heel off the ground and move with a smoother gait. Her posture also was more erect. Barbara was able to open and close her right hand, and use it to grip and squeeze objects. She could also raise her arm to her chest level.

Hyperbaric oxygen, by restoring proper circulation to damaged brain tissues, can also stimulate the growth of new blood vessels and the repair of damaged ones, but this takes time, Dr. Steenblock explains. "It may take upwards of 2 years of this therapy for all these cells to regrow, reconnect, and start to function again. But you're going to keep on seeing improvement."

One day while getting up from a sofa in the lounge at chiropractic school, David, aged 25, fell over, unconscious. He had sustained a hemorrhagic stroke (aneurysm) that left him a quadriplegic. He could move only his eyelids and occasionally one eye. He ate by way of a stomach tube. He had to have everything done for him and was transported on an electric cart. David also suffered from a chronic cough and recurrent pneumonia.

By the time David came to Dr. Steenblock, he had endured 8 years of physical therapy and numerous therapies, all of which failed to improve him.

Dr. Steenblock started David on a 2-month series of daily hyperbaric oxygen treatments. At the end of 2 months, David began regaining neck strength and right-side motion. He could stand with support straps or parallel bars for up to an hour and for 3 minutes without any assistance. Feeling started to return on his right side. He could sit up in his wheelchair and hold his head erect. His constant drooling started to diminish, and his swallowing became easier. His eyes were able to track objects normally and his facial muscles filled out. For the first time in 8 years, David was able to feed himself.

David also received regular physical therapy, biofeedback, and a nutritional prescription. After 4 months of therapy, David regained full hearing in his right ear; since childhood, he had only 70% of hearing capacity in that ear. "He's gradually getting better, and his voice is starting to come back, but it's a slow process when somebody has that level of damage," says Dr. Steenblock.

David works out regularly with weights and is able to lift about 100 pounds with his legs and 60 pounds with his arms, adds Dr. Steenblock. "And his brain is fine."

Health Restoration Medical Center,
David Steenblock, D.O.,
Medical Director, 26381 Crown Valley Parkway, Suite 130, Mission Viejo, CA 92691
tel: (714) 367-8870.
Interested patients may obtain a free 30-minute descriptive video about Dr. Steenblock's approach by calling 800-300-1063.

(Reprint, Alternative Medicine Digest, Issue 15)

Copyright © 1996. The Light Party.

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