Our Hawaiian Adventure: Bringing Hyperbaric Oxygen to Oahu’s North Shore
by Dr. Melissa Sonners
The International Hyperbaric Association (IHA) had a vision: They would bring hyperbaric oxygen therapy to the pro surfers in the Vans Triple Crown competition at Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii.
Jason and I were honored to be chosen as the doctors who would introduce hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) to these incredible high performance athletes. (As many of you know, we have a hyperbaric center in our Florham Park offices and other sites throughout the country.) The plan was for us to spend the five weeks of competition on the North Shore with HBOT chambers set up so participants could come experience the therapy and see how much it impacted their performance and recovery.
We honestly didn’t know what to expect. Being away from our practice for this long, having no idea if this would be a successful adventure or not, bringing our three kids and the covid situation all presented interesting challenges and obstacles.
Five weeks later we are home and happy to look back on our experience and share what an incredible opportunity this was for us and the community on the North Shore and surrounding areas.
Word quickly spread among the surfers that we were there. We were delighted to host among others some of the best surfers in the world, execs of corporate sponsor Red Bull, and announcers for the World Surf League. Time and time again our attendees were elated to feel changes in their lives after just one session. Many reported the best sleep of their lives including one mom with a three week old baby who said “Despite being up every couple hours to feed our baby, my sleep tracker still showed enhanced deep sleep and REM sleep, and I felt like I’d had a great night’s rest.”
We also had the pleasure of getting to know and treat the local lifeguards. The lifeguards on the North Shore are some of the most amazing first responders we have ever met. It was incredible to watch them not once, but numerous times throughout our stay, rush to the water and drag people out in the knick of time. These men and women are truly inspiring. One of the lifeguards had suffered an injury while lifting a jet ski six weeks before our arrival and was extremely frustrated with his lack of healing. It had not only impacted him physically, but emotionally as well. He shares his experience here.
About halfway through our time there, word spread to the autism community and the local TACA (Talk About Curing Autism Now) chapter that we were there with Hyperbaric Oxygen Chambers. We ended up hosting many of the families and giving them the opportunity to have their children experience the chambers. We all noticed the children coming out in a very relaxed state. They eagerly hopped in the chambers and most napped peacefully during their sessions.
Finally, we were able to install chambers and train two practitioners on the island. One in Honolulu with a functional neurologist, Dr. Josuke Tanaka & Dr. Sara Chong, and the other with Dr. Andrea Mills, a detoxification specialist on Maui.
During our five weeks we hosted nearly 200 hyperbaric sessions. The most common feedback and questions we received was how incredibly comfortable and effective the sessions were as well as questions about how they could continue their sessions once we had left. We know without a doubt that we’ve instilled in the North Shore community a desire and demand for this amazing therapy.
We look forward to more adventures like this as a way to continue educating communities while giving them access to, and sharing the experience of, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy.