A procedure that has helped people who have suffered concussions, strokes, cerebral palsy and toxic exposure is one Central Texas mother’s last hope to enhance her daughter’s quality of life.
It’s easy to be drawn into Elleana Freeman’s baby blue eyes. A fearless and brave 2-year-old, the start of her life was spent winning over everyone in her path.
Two years later, her mother, Ashley Freeman, has dedicated her life to re-raising her baby.
“Elleana was chewing her food and had it mashed up in her mouth and was trying to be silly and stick some out at her sister,” said Freeman, who is still piecing together the sequence of events.
Elleana choked. Her father, who was cutting apples in the kitchen, called 911, tried the Heimlich, hit her on the back and yelled for a neighbor to help. Elleana was rushed to a nearby hospital in Temple where doctors were able to save her.
“Her eyes were wide open, but they didn’t have the light in them they always had,” said her emotional mother.
Elleana’s brain and body were deprived of oxygen for too long.
“I just don’t want to forget the way she smiled or sounded,” said Freeman.
Progress is slow. Elleana has a home therapist, but there was something more Freeman was willing to try: oxygen therapy in a hyperbaric chamber.
The procedure was originally developed to help scuba divers. Now, growing evidence suggests it repairs and regenerates brain cells. It’s not approved by the FDA for Elleana’s type of brain trauma, but Dr. Al Johnson believes it’s worth a shot.
“Hyperbaric provides oxygen to the body in increased amounts,” said Dr. Al Johnson from Johnson Medical Associates in Richardson. “She needs increased oxygen if there’s any hope of recovery.”
So, three times per week, Freeman drives from the family’s home in Temple to Richardson for her daughter’s treatment. She watches as Elleana is placed in the chamber, under pressure, which saturates her blood vessels with oxygen.
“With this, you create new blood vessels and you help the cells that have been damaged to recover,” said Dr. Johnson.
So far, Elleana has spent more than 60 hours in these machines. Her mother believes it’s bringing her daughter back to life.
“She’s showing more purposeful movement, cognitive purposeful movement,” explained Freeman. “What I mean by that is – Ellea, squeeze my finger… lift up your leg… look at mommy, push the button.” Elleana can respond.
“She’s not brain dead,” said Freeman. “Only time will tell.”
For a mother, the small signs of hope are miracles she was told she would never see.
“She’s going to continue to beat those odds. I just have to be patient,” said Freeman.
So, she waits for the day her daughter can walk again, or talk again. While it’s tough to accept life is not what it used to be, quality of life is now the goal.
Medicare doesn’t cover the Hyperbaric chamber oxygen therapy. It costs the family about $7,000 for every 40 hours of treatment, excluding the cost of travel between Temple and Richardson.