Who hasn’t had the What’s-The-First-Thing-You’d-Do-If-You-Won-The-Lottery discussion? Tiff and I have, and there’s something we’d do before buying a new car or taking a trip. Lucky for us, we just got it on Saturday.
For us, that lottery splurge would be sessions in hyperbaric chambers for Jack. Just in case you’re new here, I’m a marathon runner and father of three. My middle child, 6-year-old Jack, is severely autistic, and next year I’m planning on running 60 marathons to raise money and nationwide awareness for a charity called Train 4 Autism. I named the endeavor Operation Jack after him, hence the name of this site.
Anyways, back to the hyperbaric chamber. We’ve heard lots of success stories of children with autism who have delayed speech showing rapid improvement in that area after treatments. Jack’s speech is very limited. He can do some counting and some repeating, but not a whole lot beyond that. We’ve wanted to get him sessions, but it’s not something that’s in our budget right now. So, I’ll rewind to August 15.
I was at a resource fair trying to spread the word about Operation Jack. At the table next to me was Mark Westaway of Advanced Hyperbarics. Mark is a really nice guy and we spent the evening talking about all sorts of things. He works a lot with special-needs children, but he also works with athletes. The sessions help athletes recover and are pretty popular amongst professionals.
Jack, with his autism, and me, with my high-mileage running, are both logical prospects to use Mark’s services. The hyperbaric chambers at Advanced Hyperbarics are big enough for multiple people to use at the same time, so Jack and I participating in joint sessions makes total sense. On August 15, I think we won the lottery without even plunking down $1, because Mark offered complimentary services between now and the end of Operation Jack next year for me and Jack.
When I got home that night and told Tiff, she was speechless. It was like a dream come true. This was something we’ve talked about for a while. I really hope that Operation Jack does lots of great things, from raising money for autism-related charities to raising awareness for Train 4 Autism to encouraging people to live a healthier lifestyle. I’m excited to have an opportunity to make a difference. But beyond all of that, from a selfish standpoint, if these sessions get Jack rolling with the speech, then running myself into the ground next year will be totally worth it as a dad. I’m pretty sure any other dad would feel the same way.
Anyways, Saturday was our first session. It was really sad — Jack was TOTALLY freaked out when he saw it. He tried to run out of the building. He was terrified and crying hysterically. I hate seeing him struggle, but this was truly heartbreaking. Words can’t really explain what it was like. I never want to see him like that again.
Mark deals with a lot of special-needs children and is very good with them. He was very patient and we worked together to try to get Jack to calm down. He wasn’t 100% calm, but I carried him in for our first session and within a few minutes, he was OK. We sat there for an hour, watching his Baby Einstein DVDs, hanging out and checking out our surroundings. By the time we were done, everything was fine. Jack actually wanted to keep playing in the chamber. I tried to pull him away, but Mark suggested I let him have fun with it for a few minutes, so that next weekend, he’ll looking forward to climbing in when we get there.
It’s not realistic to determine what kind of a difference it made with him after one session. I’m not sure how it impacted me, although I went on a 30-mile run yesterday and felt stronger than I have lately. I plan on running long next Saturday before I go in, so I’ll be curious to see how I feel next Sunday and Monday.
So for us, we got to cash in the first of our residual lottery checks on Saturday. I’ll definitely keep you posted and let you know how the continued treatments go! Thank you, Mark!