John Nelson’s Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Story

John Nelson and Deb Mock

John Nelson is 74 years young, is retired, and lives in Grinnell with his wife, Charlene (Chery). He may be retired but stays busy with his lawn mowing business several months out of the year. John was diagnosed in 2017 with prostate cancer. His prostate was removed and he recovered and was doing well for a year until his PSA level went up. He then had to undergo 39 radiation treatments at John Stoddard Cancer Center in Des Moines. 

Radiation is an effective weapon for fighting the battle with cancer, but some individuals may develop problems related to their treatments. Ten percent or less of all radiation patients can suffer from one or more late side effects which are often due to the damage of the blood vessels and connective tissue cells.

John had a catheter placed and noticed blood in the urine. “My catheter looked like I was giving blood!” said John. “Dr. Smith, visiting provider at Pella Regional, had to cauterize me a few times to get the blood to stop.” John still had trouble and Dr. Smith referred him to Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine at Pella Regional and had his first hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatment (HBOT) on November 13, 2019. After 19 treatments he had a setback that landed him in the hospital for bleeding of the bladder. “Typically for radiation cystitis, a patient needs almost 60 treatments,” said Deb Mock, Hyperbaric Safety Coordinator at Pella Regional.

Treatment for some negative effects of radiation takes place in a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber. The clear chamber is pressurized and the patient breathes 100 percent oxygen (normal oxygen intake is 23 percent) which is carried through the patient’s blood and to the injured area. HBOT provides the body with the oxygen it needs to heal. “Basically, the treatment is healing me from the inside out,” said John. “I lay in the chamber during treatments and the glass is very see-through you don’t even notice there is glass around you! I am very comfortable while I am in there and watch videos on TV that I bring from home.”

Most patients receive HBOT treatments five days a week for 90 minutes at a time for six to twelve weeks. The HBOT treatments provided healing to the lining of the bladder so it could function properly again. “100 percent oxygen under pressure causes the oxygen in our blood vessel to permeate into our plasma and new blood vessels can grow and replace what has been damaged by radiation,” said Deb Mock. “No healing can occur without this vital blood flow.”

John completed his last day of HBOT treatment on Friday, May 8, 2020. John was all smiles as he rang the healing bell at Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine at Pella Regional. “Now I can go about my daily activities like normal and mowing lawn will be much easier because I do not have to deal with a catheter and I look forward to traveling once it is safe to do so with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

John was also happy with the care. “The care I received was excellent,” said John. “The staff is wonderful and I would recommend treatment for those that would benefit. Do not be afraid of the treatments as they are a piece of cake. Do not hesitate and get the help you need.”

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help other issues such as diabetic foot ulcers, radiation injury, chronic bone infections, pressure ulcers, chronic non-healing wounds, and sudden hearing loss. For more information about Hyperbaric Medicine at Pella Regional, call 641-628-6615 or visit