On Saturday, 13 May 2017 current South African Apprentice Log leader, Lyle Hewitson took a bad fall from the Renate du Plessis-trained Gitano Giant in race 3 at Fairview. He sustained a broken collar bone and mild concussion.
Fellow sportsman, cruiserweight boxer, Kevin Lerena recommended Dr Harry Papapgapiou in Johannesburg and Lyle managed to get an early flight out of Port Elizabeth on Sunday morning for a consultation.
Kevin was on hand to personally introduce Lyle to Dr Papapgapiou and his team at Life Hospital Fourways and surgery was scheduled for 1pm that same afternoon. With everything having gone smoothly, Lyle was discharged on Monday, 15 May. Chatting to the Sporting Post a week after the incident, Lyle says, “Kevin said it’s essential to get medical hyperbaric oxygen treatments and referred me to Hyperbaric Systems South Africa (Biobarica) at the Rivonia Medical and Sports Centre. He called ahead and put in a good word and when I phoned, they said they would like to sponsor me for my rehab.”
What Is HBOT?
Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment (HBOT) is a medical treatment which exposes the patient to Oxygen enriched air, at greater than normal atmospheric pressure, to create a state of hyperoxia. Oxygen saturates the red blood cells and the excess dissolves in blood plasma, which raises the Oxygen tension in arteries, blood vessels and extracellular fluids and making Oxygen highly available to penetrate into all tissues and cells. It also allows the oxygen to be carried to areas where circulation is diminished or blocked, and increases the level of oxygen reaching damaged tissues. Increased oxygen also enhances the ability of white blood cells to kill bacteria and reduce swelling and allows new blood vessels to grow more rapidly into the affected areas. Oxygen is dissolved into all of the body’s fluids, allowing it to be carried to areas where circulation is diminished or blocked, and increasing the level of oxygen reaching damaged tissues.
Hard Chamber HBOT
Hard chamber hyperbaric therapy utilises a very high-pressure environment of 1,5 – 3 atmospheres absolute (ATA) and is traditionally used to treat decompression sickness, underwater accidents, aviation and bio-warfare trauma where higher pressures are required for medical reasons.
Lyle has selected Mild Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment (mHBOT) in the Biobarica (RevitalAir) 430 hyperbaric chamber. This uses a soft shell chamber that goes to a maximum of 1,4 ATA and uses 90% Oxygen enriched air from an Airsep Oxygen concentrator. Due to the lower ATA, it is considered a safer version of the treatment and is particularly useful for sports injuries.
Unlike the accepted high-pressure environment from 1,5 to 3 atmospheres absolute (ATA) used in the ‘hard chamber’ and mainly used for issues such as decompression sickness, underwater accidents, aviation and bio-warfare traumas, Lyle is undergoing Medium Shell Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment (mHBOT) in the Biobarica (RevitalAir) 430 hyperbaric chamber. This is a medium shell chamber that goes to a maximum of 1,4 ATA and uses 90% Oxygen enriched air from an Oxygen concentrator. It is considered a lot safer and is particularly useful for sports injuries.
Lyle said, “I’m so grateful to Hyperbaric Systems South Africa. Charl du Plooy has been fantastic. I just ring them up and let them know when I’m available and they keep a slot open for me. They are so well organised so it’s just in and out – I jump in and get it done. He’s been really good and very helpful. And of course, it’s a really big save. What they’re doing for me is great. I’m very lucky,” he says gratefully.
Lyle has been posting pictures of the process on social media and explains how it works. “My unit is relatively small, probably just a little bit longer than a single bed. The hardest part is equalizing while you’re going under pressure and I have you keep popping my ears. I’m usually in for 2 hours at a time, so I sleep for the first hour and then watch race replays for the second hour. I use the time to just relax, which is really cool.”
Lyle will be having a follow-up X-ray on Monday, 22 May to check his progress. “I think the Doctor will probably get a bit of a shock! The original prognosis was that I would be off riding for 8 weeks minimum. I don’t want to rush things, but from what Charl is telling me and going by reports from other people, I could possibly be racing in 5 – 6 weeks.”