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The Long Haul

Posted on November 7, 2017 in Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Trucker takes hyperbaric road to recovery

Long-haul trucker Tim Doute thought he had reached the end of the road. Fifteen months after being diagnosed with throat cancer, he was cancer-free and given the green light to drive again.

But, like so many miles of asphalt stretching out before him, there would still be potholes. The biggest was the one he didn’t see coming: radiation necrosis, a side effect of the 30 radiation treatments he had.

With the soft tissue inside his throat literally dying, Doute was given a choice – a risky surgery or hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO) at Fort Sanders Regional Wound Treatment Center.

HBO therapy is a medical treatment received while lying in a specially designed pressurized chamber where patients breathe 100 percent pure oxygen, compared to the 21 percent one normally breathes. The high-dose oxygen is absorbed into the bloodstream where it is carried to the site of the injury to help heal the wounds. In many cases, chronic wounds that have gone months or even years without healing can be healed within a matter of weeks.

“My oncologist said surgery was very dangerous because of the proximity of the necrosis and the scarring to my carotid artery,” said Doute, who hauls freight coast to coast. ”So he recommended the oxygen treatments.”

Doute, a claustrophobic, was terrified at the thought of being inside the chamber for even a minute, much less two hours a day, five days a week for 50 days. “I thought,, ‘There is no way! I’m claustrophobic, I will freak out!’ I was in full-blown panic mode,” said Doute.

But Allison Swindle, director of the HBO program at Fort Sanders Regional Wound Treatment Center, was not dissuaded. She worked with Doute, who was able to overcome his fear through talking with the staff, watching TV or a movie, listening to music, or by taking anti-anxiety medication when necessary.

Doute was able to complete all 50 sessions, thanks largely to the compassionate staff. “They are really sweet ladies. I love them to death,” he said. “From what I could tell they treated all of us with the utmost care. I couldn’t have asked for anybody better. They treated you more like family than a patient.”

Today, Doute credits the HBO therapy with stopping the necrosis, and enabling him to again eat hot wings. “That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is to me!” he said with a laugh.

The trucker, who has been through snow, ice, earthquakes, tornadoes, and “white-knuckle trips,” said his cancer journey has been difficult. But with illness and treatment in the rearview mirror, Doute is looking forward to brighter days ahead.

“I am definitely in the home stretch – and I am ready to put this behind me.”

Patients may self-refer to the Fort Sanders Wound Care Center or ask their doctor for a referral. To schedule an appointment, call (865) 331-2784.