Parents of Disabled find new Hope

February 22, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Parents who were once told to accept the limitations of their disabled or brain-damaged children are now finding new hope in the Valley.A mother who struggled to find a treatment for her own son is now helping other families.

Little Ryan Jeff had a light in his eyes that brought joy to his family until a backyard accident after his second birthday threatened to darken that light, forever. "He slipped out of my eye and a few minutes later. My husband had run in to answer the phone, came out and found Ryan floating in the pool," said Ryan's mother Susan Jeff, "They told us he would not survive, that he would pass and that we need to say our goodbyes."

But Ryan fought for his little life and defied what doctors had predicted. "We thought that it was a miracle that he had survived and that there was a meaning behind his survival and we were going to do whatever we had to do to save his life and make him get better," said Susan Jeff.

Ryan was left with a traumatic brain injury. But now at the age of six, he has accomplished goals even medical experts said were impossible.

His mother, Susan Jeff took him to Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy in Northern California. She says the expensive but restorative sessions of pure oxygen and atmospheric pressure worked wonders. "He's in school now, he's healthy, he laughs when you play with him. He loves being with his brothers. He definitely has a personality."

Susan was so convinced of the therapy she and her husband re-mortgaged their home to buy their own hyperbaric chambers and open, H.O.P.E. Center (Hyperbaric Oxygen and Physical Enrichment) in Northwest Fresno.

Susan became a certified hyperbaric technician and offered affordable sessions to families charging only $75 dollars for children and $95 dollars for adults; compared to the $900 dollars per session she once had to pay at a hospital, for her son.

Now, other families travel from miles away to give their children, hyperbaric treatment. Richard Standridge, a sergeant with the Porterville Police Department, brings his 3-and-a-half year old son, Hayden whose autism baffled the family. "We started noticing his verbalization going away he used to say mom, dad. It was gone; just one night it was gone. He started to act deaf and we thought for the longest time, he couldn't hear," said Standridge.

Hayden has difficulties concentrating, but doesn't fight the hyperbaric treatment in closed quarters as long as his dad can keep him company. Richard said he and his wife then watched their once distant child become alert and playful. "We're starting to notice a more typical child. He doesn't look off into space as much, he makes eye contact, he'll answer when you call him."

Hyperbaric therapy is a widely-used medical treatment to speed healing for wounds and other injuries, but has not yet been approved to treat autism or other developmental conditions. Yet, many families believe in its healing powers; helping the brain regenerate and revitalize dormant cells to become active again.

This is a scan by UCLA Medical Center of an autistic teenage boy who underwent hyperbaric treatment. The red areas in the "after" picture show where brain activity has returned. But a patient's nerves might be different a story.

Patients who first come in for the hyperbaric chamber treatment might have to face their fear of enclosed spaces. Technicians say it's a close but comfortable fit and the pressure is much like a ride in the mountains or on an airplane.

Technicians say in three to five years hyperbarics could be approved by insurance companies as a treatment for conditions such as cerebral palsy. Until then, families who come to the "H.O.P.E" center pay out -of- pocket, for the treatments.


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