Nine years ago, David Reimer embarked on a dramatic career change: from commercial diver and underwater welder to health professional. The common thread between the two: a hyperbaric chamber.
Hyperbaric chambers are most commonly used to treat divers for decompression sickness, but they’re becoming increasingly popular for hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Recently Reimer brought his business to Elmira, opening Reimer Hyperbarics of Canada on Arthur Street beside the library.
The small office is dominated by the hyperbaric chamber, a massive white cylinder with a few portholes for windows and tubing snaked all over it. Most hyperbaric chambers hold only one or two people; Reimer has had 19 divers in his chamber at once, making it one of the largest in the country. It was originally built as a decompression chamber for the tunnelling industry before Reimer bought and retrofitted it.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy promotes healing by quickly delivering a high concentration of oxygen to affected areas of the body. The chamber is sealed and the atmospheric pressure is increased. The patient then breathes 100 per cent oxygen through a mask or hood, taking breaks to breathe regular air.
Breathing 100 per cent oxygen at a level higher than atmospheric pressure increases the amount of oxygen in tissues and increases the transport of oxygen by plasma in the blood.
Although not recognized conditions, Reimer has treated patients with cerebral palsy, Lyme disease and stroke sufferers.
“Worldwide, there’s probably 100 different indications that are treated with hyperbarics,” he said. “There are so many possibilities in hyperbarics.”
A few hospitals in Ontario have hyperbaric chambers, but growing interest and demand for treatment of conditions beside the recognized 13 have led to the establishment of private clinics like Reimer’s.
Reimer started his business in Hamilton and moved it to Elmira a few months ago after the owner of the building told him the office was available. First it had to be renovated to hold the 8,000-pound hyperbaric chamber: Reimer removed the wooden floor and widened the single doorway. He built a set of axles to put under the chamber, used a 4×4 pickup truck to back it up to the office door, then used pipes to roll it inside the building.
Shortly after moving to Elmira, Reimer dropped into the Central Tavern for some supper. Asking where he could find a machining shop in the area, he struck up a conversation with Bill Evans.
Evans, the fire chief at Chemtura, is a former commercial diver who trained in hyperbaric medicine and treating divers for decompression sickness. He was intrigued by hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and the timing was fortuitous. About two weeks after Reimer opened shop, Evans became one of his patients, seeking post-radiation therapy.
“Hyperbarics will heal you more quickly from peripheral damage (from radiation therapy),” Evans said.
Evans spends an hour every day inside the chamber, and said the benefits will spill over to the surrounding area.
“There are going to be people coming from all over North America to come to this chamber. It’s a nice draw for Elmira.”
For more information, contact Reimer Hyperbarics at 519-669-0220 or visit www.reimerhbot.com.