How it All Began
The story of how we founded Oxford Recovery Center after witnessing its healing potential.
Most companies begin with a vision, invention or gap in the market. Other times it begins when a parent’s life reaches rock bottom.
I will never forget the day the doctors sent my daughter home to die. That day should have been the end. But instead, it became the beginning.
It was the last day of school in 2006, and I think I was more excited than my children for the summer. As a teacher, I always looked forward to that extra time with my children, Blake and JeAnnah, ages 11 and 9. Unbeknownst to me, my world as I knew it was to change in an instant.
Every morning before teaching I would go to my coffeehouse to start the baking. My dad would come over, get the kids ready for school: feed them, read the Bible with them and send them off with prayer time. That morning he called me soon after the kids were up to tell me JeAnnah was struggling to walk, missing her mouth as she tried to feed herself, walking as if she was drunk. He took her to the Emergency Room. I notified the school I would miss my morning classes. I had no idea how seriously ill JeAnnah was.
By the time JeAnnah got to the hospital, she could no longer walk. I arrived a few minutes later and found the doctors confused with her rapid regression. The lumbar puncture gave us news we did not want to hear; the tap revealed JeAnnah’s white blood cell count was hundreds of times higher than normal; she was diagnosed with viral encephalitis. Due to the brain swelling, JeAnnah quickly began slipping away.
There was nothing the doctors could do, and they offered us no hope of recovery. By the time she was admitted, she no longer functioned as the child we knew and loved. We watched helplessly as the alarms kept going off with her irregular heartbeats and the spontaneous stopping of her breath. The next day the doctors informed us her kidneys were shutting down. They decided not to move her to ICU, so I was able to stay by her side. I’m pretty sure they had no hopes of her survival.
Little JeAnnah, despite the bleak outlook and lack of any apparent hope, hung on to life, fought the odds and survived. She was left severely brain damaged and functioned at the level of a child 11-14 months old. The damage left her legally blind, unable to walk or talk, having seizures. Her mental and physical capacity went from that of a healthy, happy 9-year-old to an 11-month infant almost overnight.
Traditional medicine left us with a prognosis that JeAnnah’s seizures would increase, and she would eventually die in her sleep. My life went from teaching and working my coffeehouse, to the 24-hour caregiver, daily taking her to physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. We were learning to live a new life, that of having a disabled child, wheelchair barriers, constant appointments, and the enormous emotional strain on the family.
Despite our best efforts, JeAnnah was regressing. I searched in desperation for anything to help her. I began to scour the globe looking for any hope to minimize JeAnnah’s condition. Again and again, I reached one dead end after another. Although I began to feel that my search might be futile, I never completely lost hope.
Eventually, I joined an international support group for parents of children with encephalitis, where the grim stories of others sounded like a broken record. Within a month of joining the group, two children died, and I began to feel my story soon would become part of the record. That’s when an email from a parent in the support group from Malaysia gave me a glimmer of hope.
The email read ”Have you ever heard of hbot? My son was a near drown victim 18 years ago. He did hbot, and the girl in the chamber next to him sounds like your daughter. She started on a gurney, then a wheelchair, then a walker, and left dancing!” I remember thinking what on earth is hbot? A chamber? Moreover how do I get it for JeAnnah? I began rapidly searching the Internet for information. I had hope at last!
My search of Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) found that it is used commonly around the world for neurological damage in children. But unfortunately not in the US and not as easy as I had hoped. Short of leaving the country, there were not many options as hospitals in the United States that use HBOT, don’t use it to treat brain damage. Not to mention I did not have the support of any of her doctors; every one of her them told me it was a waste of my time. One went as far as doing everything he could to block her from treating.
I was not able to leave JeAnnah with others, as her care was too difficult. However, my mom convinced me to go work the coffeehouse for a few hours one Saturday morning to get some relief. It was not long after being there when a frequent customer came in who was an emergency room doctor. Out of ideas and nothing to lose, I decided to tell him about JeAnnah and my email about HBOT. Expecting the same response, I about fell over when he interrupted.
“Stop,” he said. “I was just trained as a doc in hyperbaric medicine.”
Rob agreed to introduce me to the doctor who did his hyperbaric training, Dr. Stephen Guthrie, MD.; he also was researching the effect on viruses in hyperbarics.
Dr. Guthrie didn’t really believe anything could help restore her to normal as the damage was severe; however, he was kind and agreed to help. He arranged for a meeting with the doctor who oversaw the hyperbaric unit at the hospital. The thrill was beyond explanation when I pushed JeAnnah into his office with my parents in tow to see about getting her treated there. He didn’t quite see things the same way.
He informed me that hyperbarics is for wound care, and a few other conditions, but not for brain damage. I quickly pulled out my evidence, an e-mail from a mom! I had proof! He looked me in the eyes and told me nothing was going to get her better. I debated back and forth with the doctor; I knew in my heart this was her only hope!
It was then another doctor listening in the hall popped his head in and exclaimed that such treatment was done all the time in his country. The doctor in charge then agreed to try but said treatment would have to be private pay, as insurance would not cover it. I had offers of help with fundraising, and though I didn’t know the cost, I didn’t see it as an obstacle. The nurse put JeAnnah on the schedule to start HBOT the following Monday. Things were looking up!
The next day I received a call from the hospital. Not only was it going to be private pay, the cost was $72,000 up front before she could start. The treatments were $2,000 a day, and they knew she would need at least 40. I begged her to let her start, promising to get the money, but the answer was NO.
Feeling devastated, the hope of her healing, of saving her life, was pulled away from me with one phone call. I had no money, no equity in the house, old cars….where does one get that kind of money and fast? I felt a helplessness that no parent should have to feel. Through a journey of events, by God’s grace, we were able to start her treatments at a regional hospital 10 days later. As far as anyone can tell us at the time, she was the only child treated in a hospital using HBOT for brain damage anywhere in the country.
JeAnnah’s progress was miraculous!
I started to see the fruits of our journey. Prior to starting HBOT, I had multiple therapists evaluate JeAnnah’s functioning level. She was 10 years old at the time she started HBOT, and the test showed her functioning between 11-14 months of age. The goal of treating her was to give her a better quality of life, no matter how short it may be. I never expected her to walk or really recover, but any improvements would be a blessing. Following her first hyperbaric treatment, JeAnnah’s condition improved immensely. She could kneel, not only was she kneeling but she was doing a half kneel while singing the chicken dance throwing a ball against a trampoline, all of which she was unable to do the day before. After almost three months of hyperbaric therapy, JeAnnah did the inconceivable and danced in the Nutcracker as if nothing had happened. I got my daughter back.
Medical experts and therapist working with JeAnnah were stunned at her progress. HBOT was not traditionally offered for neurological conditions, and though research was being conducted on numerous neurological conditions around the world, the facility at which JeAnnah was treated was not involved in any research and did not treat children with neurological damage.
After my experience, I realized I received a gift. There was far more potential for this treatment that was being overlooked by traditional medicine. I was called with a passion I could not ignore. I then opened Oxford Recovery Center spring of 2008 in South Lyon, MI to provide it. I quickly realized there were many more patients who needed not only HBOT but other therapies as well. ORC expanded its footprint to Troy, MI in 2010 and then expanded the Troy location in 2017. At the same time, ORC expanded the services it offers and continues that expansion today. In the summer of 2018, our South Lyon facility relocated to a 30,000 sf location in Brighton, Michigan.
I was amazed at the healing we saw, but I also saw more kids come through the doors who could not afford the many treatments that insurance does not cover. I couldn’t accept seeing these children suffer knowing that there is something that could help them. With the encouragement of some of the families that came to Oxford Recovery Center, I founded Oxford Kids Foundation in 2010.
Oxford Kids Foundation
Oxford Kids Foundation (OKF) a 501c3 organization, was founded in 2010 by Dr. Tami Peterson, Ph.D. It is dedicated to helping children in Michigan with disabilities, chronic illness, and traumatic injuries have access to therapies and medical care not covered by insurance. These therapies, they desperately need but cannot afford, can help recover these children and give them back the life they deserve. Today, its largest fundraiser is through its annual gala with a goal of over $120K. “As thrilled as we are at the outpouring of generosity that our supporters give, there are so many more children who are the most beautiful people one could ever meet, that need your support,” said Dr. Peterson. Please join the OKF Gala’s top sponsors ABC Group & Todd Sheppelman and Oxford Recovery Center to support these children. Information can be found at www.oxfordkidsfoundation.org
MyFox Detroit Video Script
I’m Lila Lazarus. This is a hyperbaric chamber, the air pressure is six times what you normally experience. It’s usually used for diabetic wounds or to treat radiation damage, but one metro Detroit family believes this chamber gave them their daughter back.
This is JeAnnah, a year ago on Christmas. 9 years old, healthy, jumping, normal, with no indication that 6 months later she’ll look like this. Unable to speak, move, see, and hold her head up. In June, JeAnnah got the chicken pox. Out of nowhere she’s dizzy, confused, and then unconscious. Her heartbeat out of rhythm, she stops breathing, her kidneys malfunction, she’s fed through IV’s. The Chicken Pox has become Encephalitis, a rare infection of the brain. Her mother is warned, her perfect little girl is likely paralyzed and will need a wheelchair. “She doesn’t need a wheelchair,” her mother says, “she’ll walk. You know I… She needs a wheelchair, and I realized my daughter was truly disabled. It was hard.” JeAnnah starts therapy to learn to speak and move. “We tried that for a month, and then it was time to try something else.” Her mother gets on the internet, searching for answers. “I would have given everything I had, I would have gone anywhere in the world.” Remarkably, she hears from a women in Australia that another child with Encephalitis was cured after spending time in a hyperbaric chamber. It’s oxygen therapy. Used to treat things like gangrene, carbon monoxide poisoning, and tissue damage. “It’s so simple, the concept: pressure and oxygen, and it can bring healing.” But in the US it’s not being in use for encephalitis. “I cannot find another child in the country that a hospital had treated in Hyperbarics for this.” JeAnnah’s neurologist says no. “It’s going to work, you gotta let me try. He refused to write the script.” She ignores her daughter’s doctor and refuses to give up. “I didn’t care, I’m like if I have a 10% chance, I’ll sell everything I have, and we’ll do it.” That’s when fate steps in, the family has a coffee shop and a customer comes in talking about a new researcher at the Detroit medical center, Dr. Steven Guthrie, who’s studying the effects of the hyperbaric chamber on viruses like AIDS. Believing the chamber confuses a virus, “so it makes some sense to say well if I take this virus and put it some place it’s not used to being, it’s just going to throw up its hands and run off into the corners. I think that’s probably part of what we’re doing.” Dr. Guthrie agrees to let JeAnnah try it and after just one treatment, called a dive, the improvement are dramatic. Her grip strength improves, her vision comes back, and she’s speaking. Her mother documents every extraordinary moment. She’ll take dive after dive in the chamber. At first crawling in, her mother sits with her. They watch movies or play cards. There are no pills or shots or side effects. JeAnnah says, “It definitely makes you hungry, and well sometimes when I get out I…I just feel happy.” Each dive brings more improvement. She can walk pushing a wheelchair; eventually she’s able to walk with a cane. It’s awesome, brings tears to my eyes. We didn’t know if she would ever walk. If I had listened to the doctors, she would still be in a wheelchair, impaired. Even dr. Guthrie is impressed, “there aren’t that many diseases that I know of where a patient will go from that level of disability to that level of mobility that quickly.” As for JeAnnah the progress isn’t good enough she has her own goal. “I’ve been doing dance since I was 3 so I can’t wait to get back.” She just wants to dance and somehow she always knew it would happen. “I could just feel it,” JeAnnah says. And after 57 dives, JeAnnah who somehow kept smiling through all of this, takes the stage. JeAnnah’s story sends such a strong message, doctors don’t have every answer, and the family never gave up hope. Even when things looked so bleak, it was the chance message on the internet that led the family to what they believe cured their daughter. JeAnnah is done with the chamber for now, but if she has another flare-up like she has in the past, she’ll come back in for another dive. That’s how it works, I’m Lila Lazarus.
Pure O2 Video
As you can see this tiny dancer, JeAnnah Powell, is doing just fine now; but only weeks earlier she was partially paralyzed by encephalitis, a viral infection that goes to the brain, and can cause series impairment and even death. JeAnnah’s mother Tami Powell is ready to do anything even planning to go overseas for specialized oxygen treatment. “I said were either going to go to the UK to get treatment or I knew there was a private clinic down in North Carolina.” But JeAnnah and her mother finally found help here at the DMC Detroit receiving hospital, with their new oxygen giving hyperbaric chamber. JeAnnah said she wasn’t afraid of the process. “But there wasn’t any pain, it didn’t hurt?” “No,” says JeAnnah. “It really wasn’t scary being in that tube?” “No,maybe the first time you look at it you’ll be like oh my! I’m going in that!” “It’s a little intimidating?” “Yeah.” Said JeAnnah. Dr. Bob Wilson is chief of the hyperbaric oxygen therapy program and chief of staff at the DMC Detroit Receiving Hospital. “We had a young girl who came in with encephalitis and the encephalitis hit her so hard that she could hardly move anything. And within a few treatments of starting this thing, she began to move, she began to walk, and after she finished her treatments she was able to tap dance. Which is almost unheard of in people who had been paralyzed from encephalitis. Oh, it was a miracle, it’s really a fantastic thing.” There’s some patients in there now? “Yes!” The hyperbaric chamber is a non-invasive, painless high pressure oxygen treatment used for a number of conditions and illnesses including diabetic ulcers, other non-healing wounds, necrosis of soft tissue and bone due to radiation, Gangrene and more. Inside the comfortable, multi-person chamber, your oxygen is administered at an air pressure 2-3 times higher than the external atmosphere. The patient’s white blood cells increase significantly, increasing their opportunity to heal. Throughout the session, technicians have ongoing contact with the patient, ensuring a high level of comfort and accommodation. The results sometimes seem, well, almost miraculous. And although there are still somethings we don’t understand about the hyperbaric chamber, the good news is: it works! Dr. Bob Wilson says, “The body, when it senses an area that has no oxygen, and an area that has very high oxygen, tries to build blood vessels from the very high oxygen area to the area that has no oxygen. Except we don’t know exactly why that occurs, but the body senses that area that has no blood flow, and tries to build new blood vessels down into that area that has no blood flow. And one of the main things about it is that with this therapy we can grow new blood vessels in tissue. We can make new blood vessels grow into tissue that have been destroyed by x-rays and destroyed by Atherosclerosis and all kinds of things and make new blood vessels grow in there and heal things.” Her doctors were not sure if JeAnnah would ever walk again but her attitude was great. JeAnnah says, “And after the walker and stuff, I shoved my walker at my therapist and I said ‘I want canes now, I am done with that walker’.” Within a few weeks the little girl was walking on her own, and now she’s dancing again too. Mom is thrilled with the DMC’s staff. Tami says, “We are so thankful for them, they’ve been wonderful, they took us, they embraced us. I’m not sure they believed at first that it would work, because nobody had, she’s set a trend that they allowed something that wasn’t done to be done, and they showed it works. Visit us anytime at DMC.org to learn more about the hyperbaric chamber or to make an appointment with Dr. Bob Wilson and the fine team at the DMC’s Detroit Receiving Hospital. The DMC, we just think it’s a better way to get better. I’m Emery King.
Tami & JeAnnah Video Script
My daughter was 9 years old and a typical happy dancing child, going to school thinking everything was fine when suddenly my daughter acquired a very serious life threatening brain condition, she had viral encephalitis. One that many doctors felt like she would never survive. After several weeks in the hospital and a longer time in the hospital rehab unit, my daughter was sent home. And the doctors told me that there was nothing more that could be done. I was told basically her brain was fried and my once bright, happy, smiling, normal child was to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair. She was mentally impaired, had a seizure disorder, she was legally blind, could communicate minimally to us, spastic behavior, heavy sensory disorder, screaming fits at night. I walked into a new world once my daughter suddenly became severely disabled. We realized the heavy impact it was on a family, and trying to take care of a disabled child. After the third neurologist told us that basically there was nothing more that could be done, I wasn’t going to accept that, as moms don’t do. We look for anything to help our child. That’s when a mom from Malaysia sent me an email telling me about her son who was treated in a hyperbaric chamber for a near drown and said that the girl in the chamber next to him sounded like my daughter. Came in on a gurney then a wheelchair then a walker then left dancing. As soon as I read left dancing, I knew I had to figure out what this HBOT was. So we pursued the hyperbaric oxygen therapy and my daughter, very uniquely, was treated in a hospital. Very costly, very expensive, but at this point I was going to try anything. Finally there was some hope. Our first treatment that we were there, the doctors, who discouraged us from treating, said that there was nothing that could be done, questioned why we were there. But we knew that was…we had to try something. After her first treatment JeAnnah, my daughter, was able to kneel and her grip strength…we had all sorts of tests done before she dived…her grip strength literally doubled. Within a week she was almost back to normal, mentally. She positively could read again, she was functioning at grade level, she could see, her sight was back to normal, no more seizures, we were almost through the sensory disorders that she had. We could touch her without her screaming, wanting deep pressure. She didn’t have her whooping coughs anymore. Two months later, she was tap dancing and it was actually on my birthday that she took her first step to me. I think it was the best birthday present a mom could ever get, I never thought she would ever walk. Today, I have a healthy normal child. Baby, come here, you did your hair; you look beautiful. Do you remember when you took your first steps on my birthday? I think you planned to do that didn’t you? Best birthday present you could have given me. And now today, no problems at all. You dance, you walk, and you’re great at school. JeAnnah answers, “Uhm, I feel that God gave me this illness because he wanted me to help other kids, and if it weren’t for me then a lot of these people that are getting healed here wouldn’t be getting healed and wouldn’t have the chance to do that.”