PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been used for years to treat certain wounds that just won't heal.
But until November 2009, there were no hypberbaric oxygen machines in reater Portland. That has now changed.
Peter Blanchette spends two hours a day, five days a week inside a bubble, with nothing to do but watch TV or sleep.
He's not complaining because just by lying there, he's treating an almost 4-year old foot wound that, until now, wouldn't heal.
While Blanchette lies there, the hyperbaric oxygen therapy tank does all the work. Technicians increase pressure in the tank, which is full of oxygen. The higher the pressure, the more oxygen is absorbed in blanchette's blood. And that oxygen works as a healing agent for his wound.
In just one week of treatment, Blanchette and his doctors can tell his foot's getting better.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy isn't new, but it is new to Portland. Because the types of patients who generally could benefit from this kind of treatment, like diabetics and those with chronic bone infections, often have trouble traveling long distances, the machines at Mercy Hospital have been getting a workout ever since they started being used in early November.
The waiting list for treatment extends into March, even though patients have to commit to treatment 2 hours a day, 5 days a week for up to 3 months.
Blanchette says the chamber is very comfortable, so he just takes it as an opportunity to relax.
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Blanchette died from an unrelated ailment shortly after we shot this story. We are running it with permission from his family.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been available for years in Bangor, Lewiston and Wells. Those hospitals also are experiencing high demand for the machines.