Fifty-year-old Tom Johnson thought his life was finally returning to normalcy in June 2015 after undergoing multiple throat surgeries and an aggressive course of treatment for throat cancer. The Sterling, Mass., resident had completed 39 rounds of radiation and seven rounds of chemotherapy at UMass Memorial Medical Center that left him with painful wounds inside his throat. The wounds, which prevented him from being able to eat normally, were just starting to heal when a second round of biopsies reversed any previous healing.
“That was tough for me. I was finally off all my pain medication, and suddenly I had to go back on them,” said Tom.
In September 2015, Tom’s wounds still weren’t healing. His ENT from UMass suggested he try hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) at Harrington HealthCare System’s Wound Care Center.
“Living so close to Worcester, I had never really considered Harrington as a healthcare option,” he said. “But I was pleasantly surprised. Everything was new and clean, and the staff was excellent, especially the nurses.”
Under the supervision of Dr. Ravindra Acharya, Tom proceeded with 40 two-hour sessions in the hyperbaric chamber. During HBOT treatments, the patient breathes 100 percent oxygen inside a pressurized chamber, quickly increasing the concentration of oxygen in the bloodstream, where it is delivered to a patient’s wound site for faster healing. Essentially, HBOT therapy helps heal the wound from the inside out.
“It was a challenge at first since I’m pretty claustrophobic,” said Tom. “But I got used to it and started taking naps after each treatment to combat the fatigue.”
Fortunately, Tom’s wounds began to heal, and he was taken off all his pain medication.
“I absolutely recommend the Wound Care Center,” he said. “Receiving the hyperbaric treatment right in Charlton made everything a lot easier. Driving into Boston for treatment would have made each session a full day process.”
Reflecting on enduring a difficult time, he said, “In total, I saw 11 different doctors and had nine surgeries. But, healing the wounds was the last step, and now I can start putting this ordeal behind me.”
Tom is happy to be starting the New Year cancer and wound free with his wife, Danielle, and 17-year-old son, Cameron, whom he says were his rocks through his diagnosis and treatment.