Woman credits unsanctioned treatment for improved health

A St. John's woman who credits treatment in a decompression chamber for freeing her from debilitating pain says she had to pay for it out of pocket.
Donna Joy says the treatment she received in a hyperbaric chamber helped cure her of the pain she suffered. (CBC)

A St. John's woman who credits treatment in a decompression chamber for freeing her from chronic and debilitating pain says she had to pay for it out of pocket, because the government does not sanction it.

Donna Joy said she suffered from severe pain in her leg for two years after she developed a rare condition called complex regional pain syndrome. Conventional medicine has yet to come up with a cure for the condition.

"Nobody knew what it was at first, or how to even treat it," Joy said.

"I could not go outside — a little bit of breeze hit my foot or my leg, and that was it, I was crying, screaming."

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been sanctioned by Health Canada for treating other conditions, but has not yet been approved for CRPS treatment.

Joy said a doctor at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's told her he would need to do a study in order for her to receive treatment in one of the two hyperbaric chambers they have, which meant starting her medication process from the beginning.

"I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle it," Joy said. "It was bad enough as it was, but to take me off all the medications and start from scratch, starting a study … I knew I would not be able to do it."

Instead, Joy found out about a private clinic in Mississauga, Ont., where she could pay to receive treatment.

"I really didn’t know it was working at first," Joy said.

"I believe it might have been my third or fourth sessions that I actually started sleeping through the night — the first time in almost two years."

Her doctor at the clinic in Mississauga started reducing the dosage of her pain medication, and after 35 of the 90-minute treatments, Joy said she no longer feels the pain in her leg.

Joy paid a total of $20,000 to receive treatment at the private clinic. She said the treatment saved her life, and her marriage.