MARRERO, La. — Drowning is the leading cause of young children dying in the U.S.
Survivors are often left with severe impairment and brain damage.
For decades now, Medical Watch has covered families coming to New Orleans with hopes that a treatment could make even a small difference.
Now another family has come nearly 5,000 miles.
Last August, a parent’s worst nightmare, a little boy, learning to crawl, slipped out of his parents' view and into the pool. Chaimaa remembers her husband's devastating words.
“I just remember him bringing him out of the pool and be like, ‘That's it. It's done.’ Your brain just doesn't accept it, like there's nothing in life that prepares you for that moment,” said his mother Chaimaa, who preferred not to share her last name.
There was CPR performed, with Ayden's heart starting and stopping. He was on a ventilator. Doctors at the hospital in their home, all the way in Casablanca, Morocco, gave him a five percent chance of living, but in a severely debilitated state.
“The seizures just pushed him to a vegetative state, where he was tube fed for like a week. He had horrible spasticity, dystonic movements, not sleeping through the nights, not following with his eyes,” she added.
Two months later on the web, Chaimaa found our story on wwltv.com, on another toddler who nearly drowned and was treated with hyberbaric, or pressurized oxygen. She called Dr. Paul Harch who has been using and studying the treatments for decades. He recommended to Ayden's doctors to give him special doses of bursts of nasal oxygen.
“I’ve got 10 published studies just on use of intermittent supplemental oxygen in various other types of traumatic brain injury, for instance stroke,” said Dr. Harch of Harch Hyperbarics.
Still, the Moroccan doctors were skeptical, as other doctors are.
“After the first session, and I'm not kidding, he was a completely different child. The spasticity completely disappeared, and after the second session, he was tracking with his eyes. Third one, smiling. Fourth one, laughing, and then he started interacting with us,” remembers Chaimaa.
Now they have come more than 4,000 miles to get several weeks of pressurized oxygen treatments in Dr. Harch's tanks in Marrero.
“The information is there, that hyperbaric oxygen has beneficial effects on injured tissue. The American Heart Association came out and endorsed hyperbaric oxygen for acute heart attacks,” noted Dr. Harch.
Her doctors told her oxygen treatments would not work. There are doctors in the U.S. who are skeptical as well, but she remembers well one doctor visit back home.
“His neurologist just literally called all the people working in his office to come check him out. They could not believe their eyes, and the physical therapist was like, ‘I’ve never witnessed such a miracle in such a short time,’” Chaimaa recalls.
Now the toddler who was in a vegetative state from September to October is already talking, playing with blocks, putting things in a cup, and handling his own bottle.
The treatment center is in Marrero but will be moving to Metairie in the coming weeks. Insurance usually does not pay for brain treatments. The child is getting weeks of daily treatments.
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