MS sufferers breathe a sigh of relief inside special Portsmouth oxygen tank

BREATHING DEEPLY Carole Goucher, Jean Butler and Martin Long, who all have MS, in a compression tank at Solent MS Therapy Centre, North End Portsmouth.    Picture: Allan Hutchings (113504-030)
BREATHING DEEPLY Carole Goucher, Jean Butler and Martin Long, who all have MS, in a compression tank at Solent MS Therapy Centre, North End Portsmouth. Picture: Allan Hutchings (113504-030)

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PLUNGING the equivalent of 33ft below sea level is helping multiple sclerosis sufferers with problems such as tiredness and muscle ache.

The Solent MS Therapy Centre, in Hewett Road, North End, has a 16ft chamber – the only one in Hampshire – that helps sufferers.

Thankfully users don’t have to get wet, as the hyperbaric chamber mimics underwater pressure, delivering more oxygen to their bodies as their capillaries expand.

Each hour-long session is referred to as a ‘dive’ and can help ease the muscle-wasting effects of MS.

Martin Long, 45, of Northbrook Close, Buckland, operates the tank and also uses it.

The former health and safety operative was diagnosed with the neurological condition in March 2007.

He said: ‘I have steady, progressive MS, which means it’s getting worse. I suffered from loss of movement in my leg and so made an appointment to see my GP.

‘He then referred me to Queen Alexandra Hospital, in Cosham, where I had an MRI scan and my MS was diagnosed – it was a massive shock.

‘What I didn’t realise was that I had been showing signs of it for about five years, but I had always put it down to different things.

‘I would get pins and needles in my feet, had muscle spasms and felt fatigue.’

Martin was forced to give up working two-and-a-half years ago.

He was referred to the therapy centre by medical staff treating him.

‘After about 10 sessions I started to notice my energy levels were so much better,’ said Martin.

‘It also helps control muscle spasms, which in turn helps with bladder and bowel control.’

Users can be plunged to 24ft or 33ft below sea level, which increases oxygen intake. Although the sessions cannot cure MS, they can help delay its development.

Centre director Mike Gambnell said: ‘We want to raise awareness that we have the service, as we’re the only ones in Hampshire.

‘There are around 1,400 MS sufferers in the area, but we only have about 100 people that come to use the service. People use only about 14 per cent of oxygen they breathe in.

‘In the chamber people can breathe in 99 per cent pure oxygen, and can take in up to 45 to 50 per cent oxygen.’

Jean Butler, 64, of Laurel Road, Horndean, was diagnosed 26 years ago, and has been using the chamber for almost two decades.

She said: ‘I have been coming for here about 18 years now and can honestly say it’s helped keep me mobile, as I would probably be in a wheelchair now.

‘You also get to meet other people, who have the same condition as yourself, so you can relate to them, as sometimes suffering from a condition no one really understands can be quite lonely.’

Carole Goucher, 64, of Hawthorn Crescent, was diagnosed with MS five years ago. The retired parking attendant said: ‘I live up three flights of stairs, and using the chamber has really helped me to climb them.’

To find out more visit smstherapycentre.org.uk or call (023) 9269 9116.