Eileen Curry stands at the end of a long transparent tube and turns a handle. The sound of air slipping past seals can be heard as the Greenwich Hospital registered nurse explains a healing technology that sounds like it belongs in a "Star Trek" movie.
The patient lies in there for two hours a day in 100 percent oxygen at three atmospheres. That's the equivalent of being 66 feet below the ocean surface, she says. Treatments often go for 20 days or more. Oh, and there is a television in there, too.
The hyperbaric chambers at Greenwich Hospital are some of the largest and most advanced in the nation. Curry serves as the manager for the Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Wound Healing . The relatively new endeavor at the hospital opened in April 2010. Curry joined the hospital the previous February to be part of the new expansion. She previously worked in wound care and hyperbarics at Norwalk Hospital.
Many misconceptions surround the use of hyperbaric chambers, based on reports about pop and sports stars. For wound care though, Curry says the science is solid. It's a new enough field that her department is constantly tracking the data, but she is confident it works.
The wound care treatments here have an 83 percent success rate, Curry says. Photographs are used constantly to track progress, so doctors and nurses have proof beyond just thinking it looks better.
The hyperbaric chambers are only one of many options Curry, the doctors and the staff have at hand at the wound healing center. She says 3,000 treatment products are available to her at any time. Those run the gamut from medicines to skin grown in petri dishes, a grafting option that stimulates healing factors while preventing the need to create a second wound by taking skin from elsewhere on the body.
For Curry, success in the job means a passion for patients and for wound care. It's about what options are available and how to use them properly. Sometimes it is something futuristic such as wound vacuums and hyperbaric chambers. Other times, something a bit more archaic might be in order.
Oh, we've used leaches before, and I can get them again if the doctor decides that is the way to go. It's really just about the right treatment for the right patient at the right time, Curry says.