patient michael in uniformLife as a parent is a profound journey, sometimes marked by a series of highs and lows. For Diana and David Ocampo, this journey took an unexpected turn in October 2023, reshaping their family's story in ways they could never have anticipated. Their son, Michael, a vibrant 9-year-old with a passion for sports and an infectious enthusiasm for life, experienced a life-altering event that tested their strength and resilience as a family.

It was a regular day filled with the usual activities. Michael, fresh from a game of youth football, was enjoying a casual dirt bike ride around the neighborhood with his dad. This normalcy was shattered in an instant when an accident left Michael with a severe compound fracture in his leg. The shock and fear were immediate.

At Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, Michael received comprehensive, multidisciplinary care that went beyond the initial medical response. His parents recall the whirlwind of those early hours – the urgent surgeries and compassionate attention of the pediatric orthopedic and trauma teams, mixed with an overwhelming uncertainty. It was in these critical moments that the Ocampo family was introduced to the pediatric hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) program at the hospital.

Their story is not just one of a child's physical recovery, but also of a family's emotional resilience, supported by the exceptional care and innovative treatments at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. The journey of the Ocampo family transformed into hope and healing, underscoring the remarkable capabilities of the hospital's pediatric hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) treatment and the dedicated professionals who make it possible.

The initial response to Michael’s accident

The day of Michael’s accident was one that began like any other in the life of an active, sports-loving family. The Ocampo family's world was soon upended when Michael, still in his football gear, decided to go for a ride with his dad on their dirt bike, a common pastime in their close-knit community. Unfortunately, a minor mishap resulted in a severe accident, just moments after Michael put on his helmet for the ride.

The severity of the accident was immediately clear. Michael suffered a catastrophic compound fracture in his leg, a sight that left his parents reeling. The high socks he wore for football masked the full extent of the injury, but his father knew right away that it was extremely serious.

David called 911, and fortunately, the emergency response was swift. Within minutes of the accident, which occurred just four houses away from their home, Michael was rushed to Memorial Hermann Hospital The Woodlands Medical Center. Recognizing the severity of his injuries, the surgeons determined Michael needed to be transferred via ambulance by the Children's Pediatric Transport Team to Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center, known for its Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center and specialized orthopedic surgeons. This decision marked the beginning of a challenging, yet ultimately triumphant journey for Michael and his family.

Upon arrival, a highly skilled multidisciplinary team, including orthopedic and trauma surgeons, sprang into action. This team, led by Brennan Roper, MD, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon affiliated with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, formulated a swift and comprehensive treatment plan.

"Michael had a severe injury that was clear upon his arrival. Thanks to swift action by both the emergency medicine team at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands and the pediatric emergency medicine team at Children’s Memorial Hermann upon transfer, Michael was able to be evaluated almost immediately once he arrived," said Dr. Roper. "He had a significant open fracture, which means the bone broke through the skin at the time of injury, exposing it to contamination from the outside world. We were able to get him to the operating room the very same afternoon he arrived. That was possible thanks to the coordination of all members of the team."

David Ocampo recalled the atmosphere in the hospital: "The pace and precision of the medical team were extraordinary. It was clear that every second counted. Their efficiency and focus helped us stay calm and collected."

The first critical step was a detailed surgery to address the complex fracture. The operation involved meticulously debriding the wound from any contamination, followed by setting the bone and stabilizing it with an external fixator – all within a few hours of the accident. This prompt and expert surgical intervention was crucial in preventing further complications and setting the stage for Michael's recovery.

The day following the surgery was a time for Michael to rest and recover, with the hospital staff providing round-the-clock care to ensure his comfort and manage his pain. It was during this time that the possibility of utilizing the hyperbaric oxygen therapy program was first discussed, a decision that would significantly influence Michael's healing journey.

"We were able to debride and stabilize the fracture the first day Michael was in the hospital. We then returned to the operating room two days later for a repeat debridement and definitive fixation," added Dr. Roper. "Once again, the collaboration that makes Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital so special was on full display – our pediatric plastic surgeon colleagues assisted with a complex closure of the traumatic wound, with the goal of utilizing hyperbaric oxygen therapy to augment healing and prevent the need for a skin graft."

The pediatric HBOT program at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, unique in its accessibility and expertise within the Texas Medical Center, became a cornerstone of Michael's recovery. The therapy, which involved exposing Michael's body to pure oxygen in a pressurized environment, was instrumental in accelerating his healing process. Although the Ocampos were unfamiliar with this type of treatment, they quickly became advocates, seeing firsthand the remarkable impact it had on Michael's recovery.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy and accelerated healing

patient michael in oxygen therapyAt the core of Michael Ocampo's road to recovery was his experience with the hyperbaric oxygen therapy program at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. This innovative treatment utilizes a specialized chamber to increase the amount of oxygen in the blood. The therapy accelerates wound healing by delivering high levels of oxygen to the body’s tissues – a vital factor in the treatment of traumatic injuries like Michael's.

Upon his arrival at the HBOT unit, the Ocampo family met with Joseph Nevarez, MD, an undersea and hyperbaric medicine and family medicine physician affiliated with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. Dr. Nevarez, also a board-certified hyperbaric physician, and leads an affiliated group of professionals who specialize in this advanced therapeutic technique at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. The team's first step was to familiarize Michael and his family with the HBOT process, explaining the science behind the treatment and its benefits. According to the family, this detailed approach helped ease their anxieties and build a foundation of trust and understanding.

In the initial days of his HBOT treatment, the medical team ensured Michael's pain management was a top priority. He received pain medication through an IV while inside the chamber, seamlessly integrating necessary medical care with the HBOT process. As Michael progressed, the treatment shifted to oral medication, administered with precise timing upon his arrival to maximize his comfort during the sessions.

Michael's hyperbaric oxygen treatment began just a day after his surgery, marking the start of an intensive, but comfortable regimen. He underwent daily sessions in the HBOT chamber for approximately 2.5 weeks while in the hospital and continued his treatment for about a month after being discharged. During these sessions, Michael was exposed to pure oxygen in a controlled environment, which enhanced the healing process of his injured leg.

The effectiveness of HBOT in Michael's case was evident not only in the speed of his physical recovery but also in the quality of healing. Remarkably, his severe injury, which initially raised concerns about the need for a skin graft, healed without requiring such measures. The Ocampo family attributes this to the hyper-oxygenated environment created in the HBOT chamber, which helped preserve and regenerate Michael's skin tissue.

Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital's HBOT facility is one of the few programs – less than 10% of around 1,300 nationwide – that provide 24-hour access to hyperbaric oxygen therapy. The hospital is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, including a multi-place chamber that can treat multiple patients, both children and adults, simultaneously – a feature that is particularly beneficial in cases of emergency or large-scale incidents.

Dr. Nevarez, elaborating on the scientific aspects and broad applications of HBOT, stated, "Michael's case exemplifies the remarkable efficacy of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in the realm of trauma recovery. This therapy, by augmenting oxygen saturation in bodily tissues, enhances cellular function and promotes rapid healing at a molecular level. It's not only effective in trauma cases but also in treating a spectrum of other medical conditions."

For instance, in diabetic ulcers, HBOT facilitates new blood vessel formation to improve wound healing. Similarly, in cases of chronic infections, particularly those resistant to conventional antibiotics, it assists in bolstering the body's immune response. Additionally, for tissue damage resulting from radiation therapy, HBOT has proven to be effective in mitigating radiation-induced injuries by stimulating new blood vessel growth and enhancing tissue repair mechanisms. The versatility of this therapy demonstrates its important role in modern medical practice.

The road ahead for Michael Ocampo

Michael’s recovery journey, filled with challenges, fears and ultimately triumph, is a testament to a child’s resilience, the strength of family and the multidisciplinary care provided at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital.

Diana and David recall the day he walked back into school in January 2024 with no crutches or wheelchair, a moment that symbolized much more than physical healing. "It was a day of immense gratitude and joy, seeing our son walk again, knowing what he had been through," Michael’s parents added, "It was a reminder of the incredible journey we’ve been on as a family and the amazing support we received from everyone at the hospital."

Michael's recovery was not just about the physical aspect; it was also about his emotional and psychological well-being. The staff at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital ensured that his stay was as comfortable and engaging as possible, which played a big role in his recovery. During Halloween, Michael was thrilled by a special visit from Darth Vader and Stormtroopers, an experience that brought joy and excitement to an otherwise difficult time.

patient Michael with facility dogThe hospital's physical therapists provided Michael with visits from both therapy and facility dogs. Therapy dogs, brought by volunteers, offered comfort, while Dexter and Pilot, the facility dogs and full-time child life services employees, gave consistent support, meeting the emotional needs of young patients like Michael. This personal touch, catering to the emotional needs of a young patient, was important in keeping Michael’s spirits high, according to his parents.

Looking ahead, Michael’s future is bright. His parents report that he has returned to his active lifestyle. He’s swimming and optimistic about playing football in the coming years. "Michael is back to being the energetic, happy kid he always was, and we couldn’t be more thankful," says Diana.

The Ocampos want to share their story to raise awareness about the life-changing potential of treatments like hyperbaric oxygen therapy and the exceptional care provided at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. "Our advice to other families facing similar challenges is to trust the medical team," David added. "They truly care, and it shows in every aspect of their work. When it comes to the opportunity to heal through hyperbaric oxygen therapy, we would say 100% do it."

Visit the Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital hyperbaric oxygen therapy web page for more details on the program »

Learn more information about pediatric orthopedic care at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital »

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