How HBOT Therapy Helps in Recovery of Vegetative Patient


About 2 years ago, Juan Torres, a 21 year old man from Oakville, Toronto, was in a hospital in vegetative state. Torres didn’t only recover, but also remembers what happened.

Torres can speak now, that itself is quite astounding. In one early morning of July 2013, Torres, 19 at that time, was found unconscious and face-down by his mother, on the bedroom floor. He had choked on vomit at the night. Torres was brain-damaged profoundly, and the doctors diagnosed him to be vegetative – unable to follow the basic commands, to control his movements, to eat, and to speak. The doctors treating Torres expected that his vegetative status would be permanent, his mother stated.

However, contrary to the expectations, today Torres has arrived back to home and is with his family. He uses a wheelchair to get around, is supported by parents, and takes halting steps forward. He began the general science and arts program at Sheridan College of Oakville in September.

Torres remembers what happened during the time he was in vegetative state

Besides all these unexpected events, what left the neuroscientists stunned was that Juan Torres has claimed to remember what happened at the time he was vegetative clinically. He even has memories to prove this. He remembers that while he was in vegetative state, a doctor told him to squeeze his hands, although he could not. Torres remembers that he was told to “follow a tennis ball” using his eyes. The memories of Torres were tested by scientists , asking him to recognize different objects and faces he saw at the time he was technically “vegetative”. Torres was able to recognize them. Torres stated that he was sad as he could not talk to his family. He felt like he was trapped in his own body.

The case of Juan Torres is mindblowing, said Adrian Owen, Western University’s neuroscientist. He is investigating human consciousness – one of the least understood and most mysterious phenomena. The brain is often said to be the most complex object in the universe. The case of Torres indicates that how much is left to understand about human consciousness. The fact that Torres was creating memories indicates that he was not at all unconscious, in spite of the best diagnosis by the doctor.

Torres said that if he could express one thought during his stay in the hospital, it would have been that he shouldn’t be considered as out of the fight simply because he was in bed.

Use of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)

Torres’s parents found Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT), in which an individual breathes in pure oxygen within a pressurized chamber. There are studies proving how HBOT therapy helps significantly in the treatment of various conditions. HBOT has been approved to treat different medical conditions, like carbon monoxide poisoning, gas or air embolism, and decompression sickness. But it’s not approved for treating brain injury. However, various studies have shown how HBOT therapy helps effectively in the treatment of brain injury.

The parents of Torres took him to HBOT sessions regularly by special medical transportation. As he was in an unconscious condition, his parents needed to enter into the pressurized hyperbaric chamber with Torres, to maintain his position and protect against convulsions. They covered the cost with the help of community fundraising. HBOT Therapy was a part of the treatment regimen of Torres.

Recovery of Torres

Torres occasionally showed some signs of response like laughter, but the doctors said that it was just a reflex. On thanksgiving, the family of Torres brought him to home for one day. As he was carefully wheeled into the backyard by his parents, Cindy and Yogi, their family dogs came to greet him. Torres’s father stuck a dog whistle between the lips of Torres. And Torres did something very unexpected – he started blowing it.

Soon after the Thanksgiving day, Torres had started to mouth words, and then started whispering. He regained his voice gradually. In November, Torres was discharged from the hospital and admitted to rehabilitation center.

Doctors said that the recovery of Juan Torres is quite impossible to explain. His physical strength and youth must have helped. Medical reports suggest that the healthy regions of Torres’s brain may have worked on behalf of regions, which were damaged permanently.

Chloe Paltrow
Chloe Paltrow, a medical assistant. She has shared her knowledge in various websites and blogs like PsychCentral, Collective Evolution and Pick The Brain. Currently, she is studying how brain injury and brain disorders can be treated with hyperbaric chambers.