LI man rents oxygen chamber seeking COVID pain relief

Long Island

SOUTHAMPTON, L.I. — A Long Island man desperate to find relief from post-COVID headaches and neck pain rented a hyperbaric chamber for his living room, so he can climb inside and breathe 92% pure oxygen for close to 90 minutes a day.

“I just knew the benefits of that and trying to get oxygen to my head, to my brain, and to also reduce the inflammation that was going on,” Devin Russell, 35, told PIX11 News when we paid a visit to his Southampton home.

The soft-chambered device sits in a corner near his window. He is renting it for $599 a month.

Russell was running an integrative medical practice when the COVID-19 crisis hit New York in March 2020, and he recalled that by March 14, he had “some strange dizziness, body aches, and disassociation.

He remembered, “They wouldn’t give me a test.”

Russell said the New York State hotline suggested he may have had the flu.  

“I said, ‘No, this is not the flu,'” Russell recalled.

Russell said he felt fine for 17 days and then he got really sick at night.

“I went to the E/R once, because I had such bad inflammation in my head,” Russell remembered.

Russell said some telemedicine doctors told him he likely had COVID.

As the weeks and months went by,  he said his mental state was affected.

“Strange thoughts popping into my head,” Russell said. 

According to a recent study published by Oxford University, over one in three (34%) patients who got sick with COVID-19 later developed neurological or psychiatric issues. The study looked at health records from more than 264,000 people, most of them Americans.

Psychiatrist Hisam Goueli said he treated all kinds of people with problems, post COVID.

“It’s not surprising that it impacts the mental state,” Dr. Goueli told PIX11 News. “COVID is a multi-system illness.”

Dr. Goueli said he even met people who’d developed severe psychosis.

“They were in the age range 30 to 50, and they were having ‘first onset’ psychosis,” Goueli said. “Classic signs of psychosis would be paranoia, suspiciousness, delusions, and auditory and visual hallucinations, the psychosis was incredibly violent — both to themselves and others. For those individuals who ‘presented,’ they had no prior psychiatric history, no family history,” the doctor added.

Ryhaan Williams, a broadcasting executive who moved to Georgia from New Jersey during her COVID ordeal, said she’s changed her diet and is trying to manage her stress level to deal with post-infection anxiety and dreams.

“The brain fog isn’t as bad as it had been,” Williams told us. “It was horrible, the nightmares and hallucinations, every time you had a relapse. I thought I saw a Confederate soldier walking through the house.”

Williams said the fatigue was overwhelming and that fueled depression.

She talked of “this breathlessness and racing heart that comes out of nowhere.”

Devin Russell has now started a website which offers supplements, doctor recommendations, and information about devices that could potentially help long-haul patients with their lingering pain.

We asked Dr. Alisha Oropallo, a specialist who’s the director of Northwell Comprehensive Wound Healing Center and Hyperbarics, when oxygen therapy could help long-haul patients with persisting symptoms.

“The research looks promising,” Dr. Oropallo said, “and we look forward to more funding available to do advanced research in patients with COVID. There are some studies that demonstrate that the hyperbaric oxygen may be helpful in patients… and useful.”

When Devin Russell started his treatments, he was going to a medical-grade hyperbaric chamber.

“With a package, it was about $260 a session,” Russell recalled, “so that cost a lot.”

Russell paid more than $1,000 a week for more than six weeks.

“When you’re in the medical grade chamber, you get 100% oxygen,” Russell remembered. “You’re basically in a glass tube, and they’re pumping in 100% oxygen.”

Russell said his treatments have been worth the cost.

“My brain fog has been much better, the pain in my neck and my head has been much better,” said Russell.

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