Monday, 24 March 2014

Breathing Myself Back To Life

If I’ve got any chance of making the World Cup squad I can’t just let the recovery happen, I’ve got to make it happen. From day one I naturally began thinking about, and exploring ways in which I could speed the process up whilst remaining safe and not rushing things so I don’t breakdown.

There are a number of weird and wonderful machines and facilities available to me at Bisham, which will all help further down the line. I’ve already been using the Pilates reformer machine and I will no doubt write about the anti-gravity treadmill and altitude chamber in the future. This, however, is where the hyperbaric chamber comes in.

The Hyperbaric Chamber
The Light Clinic - University of Reading

I’d heard bits about it, mainly speeding up recovery using oxygen and pressure. How? I had no idea, but I had to find out.

Now for the sciency bit…

Apparently, under normal conditions when a person breathes in, oxygen from the air will saturate the red blood cells in the bloodstream by around 95%. If we were to breathe in pure oxygen, that saturation could be increased by a few percent. However, in the hyperbaric chamber the pressure is increased to 2 bars, which is the equivalent to 10 metres underwater (or so I’ve been told). This added pressure, coupled with breathing is pure oxygen through a mask means the oxygen also dissolves into the plasma, which increases the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream by ten times. Not only is there more oxygen, but also the plasma is able to seep into tissue spaces where there is no blood flow enhancing the body’s ability to heal itself naturally.

After meeting Doug Jones, the science doctor who runs The Light Clinic at Reading University, and he explained the potential benefits, all I could think was ‘get me in there’! So, for the past two weeks I’ve been spending 90 minutes a day in the chamber. There isn’t a huge amount of research around the effects on my specific injury, but there’s a load around how it helps leg ulcers in particular, and with oxygen being life’s healing power, I’d be a fool not to try it.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was a bizarre experience. It was perfectly fine, just a little odd. After crawling into the cylinder shaped, white tank like submarine (with space enough for two), I’d try to get comfortable before the blast of noise like an aeroplane taking off commenced until the right pressure was reached after around five minutes. On goes the oxygen mask where I desperately gulp away whilst imagining the oxygen swarming my body mending my muscles and anything else that gets in it’s way.

For the second week Henry Weir, one of the players from the men’s squad, has joined me in the chamber. Unfortunately he went over on his ankle rupturing one ligament and tearing another so he also wants to speed up his recovery as well. Armed with various options to pass the time, Sudoku puzzles were a favourite, concentrating on university work was a struggle over the Darth Vader breathing impressions made from wearing the mask (the real Vader, not my Dad’s!), although randomly the War Horse soundtrack resulted in being most conducive to studying.

Lastly I’d like to mention Doug again to say a massive thank you to him for being so welcoming and accommodating. There were a few difficult times when I really appreciated seeing a friendly face, hearing about his sporting stories or spinal insert inventions, from someone who genuinely cares about what he’s doing; making people feel better. Thanks Doug, the signed photo is on its way.


  1. No worries re deletion of message & glad to see the hyperbaric chamber is bigger than some of the diving bells I have seen. Hope it helps :0).

  2. No worries re deleted message & hope things are still going well. Glad the hyperbaric chamber is larger than some of the diving bell ones I've seen & you don't have to stay in for so long as some divers do! Oxygen tents are also used to aid recovery by many athletes. Good luck with things.

  3. Hi, sorry it wouldn't send my 1st comment , so did a shorter version - now you have a Morgan over load - sorry!