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New clinic in South Fargo treats concussions, with hyperbaric oxygen

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SOUTH FARGO N.D.—A new clinic has opened on 45th Street, and it promises to change how concussions are treated in young athletes.

In the past, hyperbaric oxygen chambers treated victims of carbon monoxide poisoning. Now, the treatment is being used for head injuries and other ailments.

Garrett Smith of Fargo went back into the chamber for one more treatment at Fargo's newest clinic, Healing Hyperbarics. He hurt his ankle a week ago at work.

"It was literally the size of a softball, if not bigger," Garrett Smith said.

But instead of crutches, Garrett had a couple of treatments inside one of the Hyperbaric Chambers.

It puts oxygen under pressure, that experts say helps wounds and injuries heal faster.

"We have hyper-oxygenated the tissue but we have restored previous blood flow because we've taken away the swelling," Dr. Daphne Denhamm said.

Dr. Daphne Denham is a board certified surgeon, but also a mother of six who wants to see a change in how the medical world treats concussions. Denham says hyperbaric oxygen given soon enough will decrease the symptoms of a concussion.

"With hyperbaric oxygen, it is simply 100 percent oxygen pumped into the chamber, under increased pressure," Dr. Denham said.

Dr. Denham says the result will be a quicker recovery, less time out of the classroom and off the field, more time feeling better and getting active again, reduced swelling and more blood flow to the brain.

"I think we are going to show in the next few months, that we have a treatment option so instead of concussion management, we can talk about how to treat a concussion," Dr. Denham said.

Patients spend between one and two hours inside the chamber, depending on the injury.

"It is incredible to watch these kids get better and to know what some families go through," Dr. Denham said.

For Garrett, it is a little like taking a ride in an airplane, just popping your ears periodically.

He says the two treatments got him up and active quickly after his injury. He called the difference, "night and day."

Until there is more data, insurance usually will not cover the treatments, but Dr. Denham is convinced her research will prove the hyperbaric oxygen treatments will get good results without the patients needing a single pill.

"I almost feel the pressure to get enough data but we need a lot of data to convince the naysayers and there are a lot of them," Dr. Denham said.

The clinic will also be studying and testing local high school football players this fall, before and after the season, to check for any signs of concussions.

Healing Hyperbarics is located at 4487 Calico Drive South, just off 45th Street in Fargo.

Kevin Wallevand

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia and the Middle East. He is an Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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