Gianna's Story

By: Nichole Vrsansky
By: Nichole Vrsansky

What if? It’s a question a local family has been asking since their daughter was born with a brain injury. The doctors said she wouldn’t make it. Her parents thought, what if?

The doctors said no treatment can help; her parents thought, what if? And because they asked, the Kelly family from Rockford has found what they call a miracle treatment, one that has saved their daughter’s life and one that is promising to help even more here in the stateline.

From the moment she was born, Gianna Kelly’s parents knew she was a fighter. Gianna suffered a brain injury at birth. Doctors said there was no hope. Her parents disagreed.

“Don’t let anybody ever take your hope away for your child,” says Jennifer Kelly, Gianna’s mom.

The family stumbled upon an internet site on hyperbaric oxygen treatments. The treatments have been around for centuries. Patients receive high doses of oxygen - thought to enhance the healing process.

“Sometimes it’s the last hope for families,” explains Hyperbaric Technician Juanita Jackson.

Gianna’s first treatment was late last year at this clinic in Madison. Gianna was in a vegetative state, but for the very first time, she began moving.

“I noticed changes with in the first week of the hyperbaric, where she had more strength in her torso. She was more focused on things and it was that quick; it couldn’t have been a coincidence and we’ve seen her progress so much further,” says Gianna’s dad, Tim Kelly.

Being inside the chamber, receiving 100 percent oxygen feels like being inside a plane with your ears popping. Oxygen is being infused into my brain, possibly reaching parts it normally wouldn’t. The goal is to stimulate parts of the brain, wake up parts that might be sleeping.

About 80 hyperbaric oxygen treatments later…

“Gianna’s come a long way, she’s rolling over, she’s sitting up, her focus is better,” says Jackson.

But those results are not reserved only for those with brain injuries. People with cancer, cerebral palsy, autism, thousands travel to Madison each year for these treatments.

And they’ve all seen improvement in, “Focus and verbal skills, in muscle movements, eye contact, saying words that maybe they’ve never said before or speaking at all,” says Jackson.

“What do you think when you watch this? Her walking outside? ‘Wow, that’s very cool. It’s almost like you’d do anything for your child,’” responds Jennifer Kelly.

“She’s being pushed. We as human beings, we need to be; that’s why we go to school, why we continue to work out, continue to use our muscles and that’s what we’re doing with her,” adds Tim Kelly.

The unique thing about the treatment center in Madison is that right next door there’s an intensive therapy facility.

It’s called ‘My Next Step,’ and many hyperbaric patients use this intensive therapy hand in hand with the oxygen treatments. Patients work on strengthening their muscles, to be able to lift their heads, sit up, walk, whatever their goal may be. This facility is the only one in the country with both hyperbaric and intensive therapy in the same building.

These treatments are expensive - the hyperbaric treatments cost about $150 per session. Most patients buy packages of at least 40 sessions and that’ll set you back about $5,000. Medical insurance, however, will not pay a dime in most cases. The treatment has been around for centuries, but insurance companies still consider it experimental.

You can contact the Madison facility at 888-278-HBOT or 608-278-4268. They’re also located on the web at www.wisconsinhyperbarics.com.


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