A father’s quest to aid his autistic son, a midlife marriage and a woman’s recovery from traumatic brain injury helped lead to the opening of Mountain Hyperbarics in Durango.
The business, at 100 Jenkins Ranch Road, Suite D, offers access to a hard-sided hyperbaric chamber. The chambers are used to treat an array of conditions stemming from the lack of oxygen, such as strokes, traumas, heart attacks, peripheral arterial diseases, diabetic wounds, neurological conditions, wound recovery and recovery from fractures.
Originally, Mountain Hyperbarics’ chamber was purchased by Paul Mattson to provide treatments for his autistic son, Anders. Mattson then used the chamber in a Frisco clinic from 2007 to 2014. After Mattson retired and closed the clinic, he kept the chamber to continue home treatments for Anders.
Dr. Kicki Searfus, who has been practicing medicine in Durango since 2006 and has been operating a direct primary care practice with Mountain View Family HealthCare since 2012, met Mattson and the two were married in September 2017.
“I thought: You know, that would be a great thing to bring to Durango,” Searfus said when she spotted the hyperbaric chamber at Mattson’s Frisco home.
Dr. Searfus now serves as medical director for Mountain Hyperbarics, and Mattson serves as the firm’s technician and consultant.
Mountain Hyberbarics owners and managers George and Lori Ann Glass were convinced they could develop a business around Mattson’s hyperbaric chamber after seeing results Lori Ann received after several sessions in the chamber, called “dives,” to treat traumatic brain injury.
After suffering from several concussions, Lori Ann had been living with TBI for decades. She had received several medical and nontraditional treatments, but not until her experience taking dives in Mattson’s hyperbaric chamber did she see beneficial results.
Searfus diagnosed Lori Ann with TBI, and after 40 dives, she experienced relief from migraines, poor sleep and mood swings, George Glass said.
“She was seeing benefits after 10 sessions,” he said.
“By the time the full course of treatment was completed, she was sleeping six to seven hours a night, her headaches were gone and she had more color in her face.”
The experience convinced the Glasses to open Mountain Hyperbarics with the assistance of Searfus and Mattson.
Insurance and Medicare cover some treatments in hyperbaric chambers, such as recovery from radiation treatments for cancer, diabetic sores, gangrene, skin grafts, bone fractures, bone tissue healing and wound healing.
But current research supports use of hyperbaric chambers to treat numerous other conditions not yet covered by insurance, such as the autism Anders is dealing with.
Other conditions research has shown benefit from hyperbaric chambers include strokes, multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease.
Bonnie Barbey, a patient at Mountain Hyperbaric, said she began seeing benefits after three sessions in the hyperbaric chamber for treatment of fibromyalgia, an auto-immune disease that causes widespread musculoskeletal pain.
“Instead of riding horses once a month, I’m riding three or four times a week, and I want to ride them,” said Barbey, who owns a ranch.
Veterans Affairs is in the process of getting approval for hyperbaric treatments for traumatic brain injury, and veterans are already commonly using hyperbaric chambers to alleviate suffering from brain injuries received in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mountain Hyperbarics charges $195 per dive in the chamber and offers discounts for purchases in groups of 10 dives.
“Physiologically, it makes sense that this would work with any condition that would benefit from an increased oxygen supply to the body,” Searfus said.
“In a heart attack, muscle dies because of a loss of blood flow, which carries oxygen. In a brain injury, you’re not getting good oxygen delivery to a certain area.”
Elite athletes, like LeBron James and Cristiano Ronaldo, use soft-sided hyperbaric chambers to recover from training and to overcome injures.
The Glasses see potential uses for their chamber by athletes in Durango.
Mercy Regional Medical Center’s Wound Care Center has the only other hard-sided hyperbaric chamber in Durango. Hard-sided hyperbaric chambers are required to treat medical conditions.
Mountain Hyperbarics’ chamber is big enough for two people, which aids in treatments by allowing a parent to comfort their child in the chamber.
The Glasses are now beginning to spread the word about the availability of the chamber among the medical community in Southwest Colorado.
The business has been open since mid-August and has conducted about 200 dives among six patients.
Searfus said protocols for treatments vary depending on the medical conditions, but treatments usually span 20 or more dives.