Four months after we stopped giving Fridrik chelation therapy, the question has become: What other steps can we take to augment the healing process of a non-verbal autistic boy?
The answer, like chelation, has come from an unlikely source—the Navy.
Chelation therapy, which was developed by the U.S. Navy during World War II to purge sailors exposed to metals when they were working in the bowels of ships, has an older technological brother. It is hyperbaric oxygen treatment (HBOT).
The hyperbaric chamber was developed in Europe in the 19th century. For most of last century, it has been used to save the lives of countless divers from narcosis or developing the "bends"—decompression sickness—during saturation dives. Today, the "mild" or "soft" chamber is also used to help heal ASD (autism spectrum disorder) kids.
Soft HBOT provides an atmosphere of about 40 percent oxygen, while hard HBOT can provide up to 100 percent oxygen. The concentration of oxygen in air is usually about 21 percent.
HBOT's success is not only the ability to deliver more oxygen, but also to do so under pressure. More oxygen without the pressure—the body simply can't absorb it. That's because red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout the body, are already doing so at capacity. Pressurization enables the blood plasma—which makes up more than half of blood—to deliver additional oxygen.
For an autistic child, HBOT reactivates blood vessels in the brain that have ceased functioning and reduces brain inflammation. And for those ASD children who suffer GI problems, it can aid the body in fighting the yeast or bacteria that causes "leaky gut."
The Vitaeris 320 is the biggest of three HBOTs that Oxy Health Corporation makes. It allows parent and child to enter the chamber together. Since it is a mild oxygen-enriched environment, a parent and child can go into the chamber for 1.5 to 2 hours. Once under pressure they are stuck there until someone else turns off the machine and the pressure inside the HBOT is reduced to the pressure outside. Exiting the chamber prematurely puts the person at risk of rupturing his or her eardrums.
Since soft HBOT doesn't use bottled oxygen, there is no risk of fire. It takes oxygen from the surrounding air, compresses it, and pumps it into the chamber where a mask can direct the oxygen to the child. There is a wireless alarm bell inside that allows a parent to signal to end the dive session. The user can bring toys and water inside. A viewing port allows a two-way visual communication. Along with the double-lined chamber are a compressor and oxygenator. In order to purchase a HBOT chamber, you need a medical prescription. The chamber is noisy, but once inside the sound is reduced to a drone. If either person has a cold, it's not recommended to make a dive.
Before Fridrik and I take the plunge, the best way to measure whether the expensive treatment ($20,000 for the Vataeris 320 or $250–$1,000 per dive at a doctor's office) works is to take a snapshot of my son's brain before and after a series of dives.
That's called a SPECT Scan—Single Photon Emission Computed Topography. It can capture the activity of specific regions of the brain and tell parents whether they are on the right path in treating their autistic child.