Stroke Recovery–Prove Your Doctors Wrong

Stroke Recovery—Prove Your Doctors Wrong

Julian Whitaker, MD

I received this letter from Roy Ellis of Kearney, MO, a Health & Healing 2006 Health Achievement Award winner.

“On June 9, 2004, I had a stroke. I’d had a complete physical five weeks before, and my doctor said I was in great shape—no high blood pressure. Anyway, I had a brain bleed on the left side near the brainstem. For a few days I had some paralysis on the right side and some speech problems. Fortunately, in a few days both those symptoms passed, but I had no feeling at all on my right side. It was as if a line was drawn down the center of my entire body.

“After my stroke, I subscribed to your newsletter. I read about hyperbaric oxygen therapy helping stroke victims. We found a clinic near us, and I started hyperbaric treatments in June 2005. I had 30 treatments, one per week. I also had some IV chelation therapy. I now have feeling on my right side—not the same as my left, but I do have feeling. The nerves are definitely coming alive.

“It hasn’t been easy, but I have come a long way. I now walk two miles a day and work out with weights. I do 100 pushups daily. The doctors/neurologist told me in 2004 when I had the stroke, ‘What you have as far as feeling and mobility one year from now is what you will have for life.’ I thank God for the opportunity to prove them wrong!”

Stroke Debilitation Can Be Reversed

Roy’s story should be an inspiration to anyone who has had a stroke. More than two-thirds of all people who survive strokes have residual problems, making stroke the leading cause of disability among American adults. And all too often their doctors, like Roy’s, just give up on them. But Roy is living proof that with the right treatment and a willingness to work, improvements can be made and function restored—even years after a stroke.

The therapy that was likely responsible for much of Roy’s recovery was hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). A stroke occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off, either by a burst blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke, which Roy had) or a blockage in an artery (ischemic stroke, the most common type). Cells in the affected area, deprived of oxygen and nutrients, die—taking with them speech, movement, sensation, and other functions most of us take for granted.

Although nothing can raise brain cells from the dead, HBOT does the next best thing: It revives cells in the immediate surrounding area that have been damaged but are hanging on in a state of “suspended animation.” Once they’re revived, they build new neural pathways, and function slowly returns.

Wake Up “Sleeping” Brain Cells

When you breathe in normal conditions, oxygen is carried only on the hemoglobin in your red blood cells. If circulation in a given area is impaired—as it is at the stroke site—it will not get enough oxygen. But when you breathe 100 percent oxygen under pressure in a specially designed chamber, it dissolves in all the body’s fluids, including the cerebrospinal fluid that bathes the brain. This massive influx is a balm to oxygen-starved tissues.

HBOT also encourages the growth of new blood vessels, helping to restore blood flow to damaged areas. In addition, this therapy has been shown to mobilize stem cells from the bone marrow. Stem cells are a hot topic of research because they have the ability to transform into several different cell types—including brain cells. Early studies that involve injecting stem cells directly into damaged areas of the brain are promising, and this may become a standard treatment in the future. But for now, your best bet may be HBOT. Scientists from the University of Pennsylvania found that levels of circulating stem cells doubled after a single treatment and increased eight-fold after a full course!

Researchers and clinicians who deal with stroke and other brain injuries often use SPECT scans, which illuminate blood flow through the veins and arteries in the brain. Normal tissues show up in various colors, while areas with poor circulation are dark. Scans of stroke patients taken before and after a treatment course are like night and day—HBOT literally wakes up the brain.

Recovery Requires Effort

Another significant factor in Roy’s remarkable improvement is Roy himself. First, he refused to accept his doctors’ dire prognosis and sought treatment alternatives. I guarantee his physicians didn’t tell him about HBOT—he hunted it down on his own.

Second, he was willing to do the “work” of recovery: the daily pushups, weightlifting, and two-mile walks. Physical therapy is an essential part of stroke rehabilitation, and people who expect good results must be willing to put in the effort. We all know that exercising regularly is hard, even for people with no limitations. But making that commitment and sticking with a program after a stroke dramatically improves the degree of recovery.

HBOT and rehabilitative exercises are not the only therapies for stroke patients. At Whitaker Wellness, we also use intravenous glutathione, an antioxidant that is particularly active in the brain, along with a number of nutritional supplements that target brain function. We also help patients get a handle on hypertension, sleep apnea, and other factors that increase stroke risk. It’s often a slow process—not everyone sees results right away—but over time, most every patient can and will reap benefits.

My hat’s off to you, Roy. Thank you for sharing your story.


  • For information on the comprehensive stroke rehabilitation program at the Whitaker Wellness Institute, contact a Patient Services Representative at (866) 944-8253 or click here.

Modified from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Copyright 2007. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healingclick here.

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