Today marked my 40th Hyperbaric Oxygen (HBO) therapy. I strolled in at my usual time (8:55 AM), threw on a hospital gown and disposable foot booties, placed all my stuff in a black plastic bin, and walked into the main room to greet the faces who have become part of my daily routine for almost two months now.
“Which chamber am i going in today?”
Lori, my favorite, is the first to respond. “Actually, go in Exam Room 1. Dr. Walsh wants to hook you up to the Luna.”
“Luna” is the brand name for this fancy machine that does something called a fluorescence vascular angiography. Through my port, they send this dye into my body, and the Luna monitors the oxygen and blood moving around a particular area. In my case, they are looking at my right breast area because they’re trying to assess a number of things:
(1) Is the HBO therapy working? In other words, is adequate oxygen and blood circulating around the areas where I have/had surgical wounds reopening involuntarily, stitches, staph infection, and tissue necrosis?
(2) Is tissue necrosis still a problem?
In this first image, you have X-ray vision into my right breast. The red-then-yellow-then-green circle in the middle is my nipple. Underneath and to the left is the second incision that was done on the breast – when they had to swap out the expander for smaller and smaller implants, but they couldn’t use the original incision area because it was so damaged by radiation and infected by staph. The big blob of red on the right side is the problem area – the source of all my recent infections, surgeries, and hospital stays. I don’t know what all the colors mean, but red indicates inflammation, and blue indicates oxygen flow. Not surprisingly, there is inflammation by the second incision because they just took out my stitches this morning, and of course there is a TON of inflammation surrounding the problem area.
The Luna machine continues to capture images of the area for 1.5-4 minutes. The purpose is to watch and see if oxygen and blood are moving around in that area. As far as colors go, there are three things to watch for:
(1) Blue indicates oxygen is moving through the area of inflammation.
(2) Red indicates oxygen is not getting in to the area of inflammation, which means the HBO therapy isn’t working.
(3) Black indicates tissue necrosis.
Remember these three things.
You’ve already seen one image, taken 53 seconds after the dye went into my body. This upcoming one captures an image about 1.25 minutes after that.
When Nurse Pat showed me these results and explained the implications, i said to her,”Okay, I’m probably going to start crying any moment now. I’ll try to keep them in, but the longer we stand here, the harder it’s going to be for me to hold back.”
“You can cry,” she replied.
“Okay, good, because I’ve already started.” And then she hugged me.