Sixty feet below sea level. It’s truly the most beautiful place to be. The ocean all around as you admire a whole new world full of amazing things, while a simple tank of oxygen is strapped to your back – the only thing keeping you alive. I have lived in this moment more times than I can count. As a child with a disability, there weren’t many activities I could fully participate in. No one chose me to be first at dodge ball. But 60 feet below sea level, weightless, surrounded by miles of open water, the ocean was a safe haven.
I studied medicine in the Dutch Caribbean at the only school within hundreds of miles that had a hyperbaric chamber and curriculum offered. While on the island, I treated multiple patients with decompression illness. However, it wasn’t until I left the island to continue my third and fourth year of medical school that I was faced with the most stressful case of decompression illness of my career. I received a call from the physician on island, stating that my future father-in-law had decompression illness with significant neurological involvement. The physician reported that despite two hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatments, immediately upon re-compression his symptoms would return. To further complicate the treatment process, the island was running out of their oxygen supply. If they were not able to effectively treat my future father-in-law’s decompression illness, he may suffer permanent neurological sequelae. With good care coordination, effective implementation of a more aggressive treatment approach, and good post-dive care, we were able to completely resolve his neurological symptoms.
After completion of medical school, I had treated over fifteen patients with decompression illness. The unique opportunity afforded to me with treating patients with hyperbaric oxygen therapy and witnessing the complete reversal of decompression illness symptomatology spurred the creation of Caribbean Hyperbaric Medicine (CHM).
CHM was founded with the goal to provide comprehensive hyperbaric medicine training. With nationally approved courses by the ACHM in Hyperbaric Medicine and Wound care, my team has been actively involved in educating physicians, nurses, and other allied health care providers hyperbaric medicine over the last 10 years within the United States and various countries around the world.
My adventure back to the Caribbean began when I became the physician in charge of the Diver Alert Network’s regional on call center on the island of Sint Eustatius. I provided care to countless dive accidents and other approved hyperbaric indications. Coordinating and witnessing not only the successes, but also the struggles, that are experienced within the Caribbean drove me to do more. My father-in-law’s case of decompression illness ran vividly through my mind. What if a hyperbaric chamber wasn’t available to him?
Curacao was the first Caribbean island that I began a partnership with. St. Elizabeth Hospital had a five person multi-place chamber, however it was in a poor location, needed safety upgrades and the hospital chamber staff needed re-education. Through our partnership, CHM was able to re-locate the chamber to St. Elizabeth Hospital grounds, fly a team from Texas to provide the much needed safety upgrades. Education was provided through the ACHM and DAN approved courses to the physician, nurses, and other chamber operators. Through our collaborative efforts, we are able to provide a higher level of care to the patients on the island of Curacoa and empower the healthcare personnel to continue to provide excellent care.
After the success of Curacoa, my old medical school professor and HBOT instructor reached out about a potential opportunity to join St. George’s University on the island of Grenada. After meeting with the local physician at St. Augustine Medical Services hospital, a collaborative agreement between CHM, SAMS and St. George’s University Medical School was developed. CHM transported a hyperbaric medicine chamber from Miami, Florida to St. George’s, Grenada and installed the first of its kind at St. Augustine Medical Services hospital. This had been a dream for the Grenadian government for over ten years and CHM had the honor of making this a reality. The CHM team (including an HBOT nurse from Curacao) travel to Grenada three to four times a year to teach the medical students hyperbaric medicine, provide safety upgrades to the chamber and refresher courses to the hospital staff.
The most recent CHM international trip was in July, 2018 to Perth, Australia. I had the pleasure of speaking at the Australian Medical Student Association about my personal story and how I became so actively involved with hyperbaric medicine.
I was born 12 weeks premature. Immediately upon delivery, both of my lungs collapsed which deprived me of much needed oxygen. At 18 months of age, I had significant motor delays and my family was given the diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy, spastic diplegia. They were told that I would be wheelchair bound, mentally disabled and likely be completely dependent on their care for the duration of my life. By the grace of God, sixteen surgeries, months of hospital care and years of physical therapy have allowed me to become who I am today. I am able to use my past experiences to impact my patients in a truly unique way and help people move past perceived barriers in their lives. Since 2003, I have been an international motivational speaker, haven spoken hundreds of times raising awareness about overcoming adversity for the disabled. I have written a book entitled God Bless These Little Legs and have been featured in numerous books, articles and radio/television broadcasts around the country. Some of these programs include ABC’s 20/20, 700 Club, The God Squad, Hour of Power, The Helpline and Focus on the Family. My goal: to impact people by instilling in them an attitude of achievement regardless of the disability or situation. I strive to be a doctor who gives hope to patients instead of worst case scenarios.
One of the most rewarding aspects of my experiences in wound care and hyperbaric medicine over the last ten years has been the care of children with complex medical conditions suffering with complicated wounds. The ability to identify with this subset of very special patients has been invaluable. CHM has had the privilege of partnering and providing education to numerous adult and pediatric hospitals regarding the approved clinical indications and applications of Hyperbaric Medicine and pediatric patients. We have successfully treated numerous pediatric patients, who, prior to the introduction of hyperbaric medicine, were offered only severely debilitating and invasive medical treatments.
By bringing all of these past and present experiences together, I am now focusing on adult and pediatric wound care. I am serving as Chair and Medical Director of Pediatrics and Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine at Singing River Hospital and employing all of this to locations around the globe in desperate need of training and equipment. I am excited that CHM, in collaboration with the ACHM, can continue and allow for the expansion of the clinical applications of hyperbaric medicine, reaching parts of the world that otherwise would be untouched. Through our continued growth, research and education, we hope to empower physicians all over the world with the ability to provide excellent hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
I am so honored to serve you all as the Vice President of this incredible organization! Thank you for the opportunity!
Tyler D. Sexton,
MD CHWS DMT CHT MAPWCA,
ACHM Vice President