A hyperbaric chamber patient watches television from inside the chamber as a nurse monitors the pressure at EvergreenHealth’s Wound Care and Hyperbarics Center in Monroe. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A hyperbaric chamber patient watches television from inside the chamber as a nurse monitors the pressure at EvergreenHealth’s Wound Care and Hyperbarics Center in Monroe. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

This little-known therapy is saving limbs and healing wounds

Steve Mataya was told he would lose his foot. Then he discovered hyperbaric oxygen therapy in Monroe.

MONROE — Steve Mataya was told he would lose his left foot.

He caught his leg on the metal steps leading up to his truck, and his diabetic condition kept the wound from healing. By the time he went to the doctor, infection had almost reached the bone.

At the time, eight years ago, Mataya’s vascular specialist and a surgeon told him the best option was amputation. But in passing, a nurse suggested Mataya look into hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

After a three-month round of treatments, the wound on Mataya’s foot healed.

About 60 percent of the patients who visit the center are diabetic, said Kayla King, a hyperbaric technician at EvergreenHealth Monroe. The disease affects circulation, making it difficult to recover from injuries.

The hospital’s Wound Care and Hyperbarics Center has been offering the therapy in east Snohomish County for 10 years. However, surgeon Jonathan Borjeson said many aren’t aware of the method’s effectiveness in treating radiation injury, carbon monoxide poisoning, wounds that won’t heal due to diabetes, and other ailments.

Since starting the treatment, Mataya, 59, has gone back to the center for several other wounds on his feet caused by neuropathy — a lack of feeling in the lower extremities associated with diabetes.

They all healed, he said as a nurse prepped him for an appointment in January.

Sometimes it hurts when a nurse prods at a sore on his foot, Mataya said as he pushed his camo trucker hat up on his forehead. Most often, he can’t feel anything.

During hyperbaric therapy, patients enter a cylindrical chamber that increases atmospheric pressure to 33 feet below sea level.

Pure oxygen is pumped into the chamber, and the added pressure drives the gas into the fluids of the body, including blood plasma. The process causes tiny new blood vessels to form, nurse Kristie Amsberry said.

A nurse adjusts the chamber pressurization at EvergreenHealth’s Wound Care and Hyperbarics Center in Monroe. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A nurse adjusts the chamber pressurization at EvergreenHealth’s Wound Care and Hyperbarics Center in Monroe. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The increased oxygen and blood flow provided by the chamber allows for better circulation, which helps wounds to heal, Amsberry said.

At 6-foot-7, Mataya just barely fits in the chamber with his feet pressed to the bottom. He’s enclosed for 90 minutes at a time.

The therapy is cumulative, so patients need to undergo the treatment five days a week for 60 visits — which works out to about three months, said King, who works with him as a technician.

For Mataya, his repeated need for the time-consuming procedure has cost him jobs at two truck-driving companies.

“The alternative is having wounds for years and years or losing a limb,” King said.

The treatment can cost around $2,000 per visit, but Mataya said Apple Health has covered it.

“They’ve had our back,” his wife Pam Mataya said.

With two chambers available, King said the clinic sees three to six patients per day for hyperbaric therapy.

Jonathan Borjeson tends to Steve Mataya’s foot sore at EvergreenHealth’s Wound Care and Hyperbarics Center in Monroe. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Jonathan Borjeson tends to Steve Mataya’s foot sore at EvergreenHealth’s Wound Care and Hyperbarics Center in Monroe. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Due to his neuropathy, Mataya has to examine his shoes every day before he puts them on to check for pebbles and debris. He won’t feel a blister forming, and any wound can develop a limb-threatening infection within days because of his body’s inability to heal itself.

Despite his precautions, he gets sores that land him back in the wound healing center every so often.

The Matayas have gotten to know the other patients and all the doctors. They’ve even celebrated a few of the center’s receptionists who have been inspired to go back to school for hyperbaric therapy.

While the process isn’t foolproof, Borjeson said he sees a high success rate. About 93 percent of the center’s patients’ wounds are healed through a combination of hyperbaric oxygen therapy and other treatments. Less than 3 percent of patients still end up requiring an amputation.

Mataya continues to work as a truck driver. He can do everything but load his truck, and he said his employer is willing to work around his treatments. Reoccurring wounds likely will always be a challenge.

“But if we have to go to the doctor, we’d rather go here,” Pam Mataya said.

Julia-Grace Sanders: 425-339-3439; jgsanders@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Top (L-R): Kim Daughtry, Steve Ewing. Bottom (L-R): Gary Petershagen, Marcus Tageant.
Developers court Lake Stevens council incumbents with over $20K

Over half of the campaign dollars for four candidates came from people tied to real estate or property development.

Voting thing
Decision time: Ballots on their way to a half-million voters

Races for mayor, city councils and school boards are focal point of the Nov. 2 election in Snohomish County.

Police investigating Mill Creek collision where man died

A stretch of 35th Ave SE was expected to be closed for a few hours Friday night.

No injuries, one arrested in Silver Lake drive-by shooting

An Everett woman, 35, was booked into jail for investigation of first-degree assault.

People look through a box of vegetables at the Lake Stevens Community Food Bank on Aug. 30, 2018 in Lake Stevens, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Big push lands Lake Stevens Food Bank a slice of federal aid

When the County Council OK’d use of $56.6 million, it made a change, steering $600,000 to the nonprofit.

Everett woman who died in crash south of Everett identified

Tigist Abay, 50, was on her way to work Oct. 5 when she was injured near 128th Street.

Police say a woman had a concealed handgun in her possession as she was being booked on a DUI charge at the Snohomish County Jail on Wednesday. (Snohomish County Sheriff's Office)
Police: Woman had gun in her abdomen when booked into jail

The loaded Colt .25-caliber semiautomatic handgun was found in the folds of her flesh at the Snohomish County Jail.

Firefighters contained a fire to a storage area inside Cabela's around 5am this morning. Smoke spread throughout building, putting preliminary damage estimate at about $500,000. We're glad no one is hurt. Sno County Fire Marshal's Office is investigating cause. (Marysville Fire District)
Fire causes $500K damage at Tulalip Cabela’s

The outdoor supplies store closed after heavy smoke damaged merchandise and more in the building.

Everett, Smokey Point rest areas closed for 2021

WSDOT announced the closures were due to ongoing maintenance, staffing and vandalism problems.

Most Read