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Why Our Pets Have Better Health Care Than We Do

However, since stem cell therapy is not yet available in the United States for my condition, and is still in the trial phase in Europe (where I'm not eligible for inclusion in clinical trials because I'm American), I was curious to know what new technology might have to offer me here. In a consultation last year, the same doctor who performed my emergency surgery in '99 told me, once again, that the only treatment option available to me was an old-school surgery called fistulotomy. He had no news for me, and hadn't even heard of the stem cell trials going on in Europe since 2009. For the last 13 years, I've elected not to undergo a fistulotomy because there's a good chance it could leave me permanently incontinent. That's not a risk I'm willing to take, and I'm not changing my mind now.

A few months ago, I happened to research a story on hyperbaric oxygen therapy for pets, which is how I came to report on Sofie the Yorkie and her astonishing blindness reversal. I also learned of a fascinating link between stem cells -- the body's own built-in, search-and-repair healing system -- and HBO2 therapy: Exposure to hyperbaric oxygen mobilizes stem cells so effectively that, over a course of 20 treatments, circulating CD34 cells were shown to increase eightfold. HBO2 is, according to Dr. Stephen R. Thom, chief of hyperbaric medicine at the University of Pennsylvania's Institute for Environmental Medicine, "the safest way clinically to increase stem cell circulation, far safer than any of the pharmaceutical options." (Why doesn't the Times' Jane E. Brody report on that, I wonder?)

Intrigued to know more about HBO2 for people, and whether it might offer me some relief, I studied the list of Medicare-approved conditions; among them was "selected problem wounds." I called the hospital where I'd had the emergency surgery and the followup consult last year to ask if my condition might qualify. It turns out that it does, and that the hospital uses HBO2 to treat perirectal fistulas! So, why hadn't my doctor suggested HBO2 as an alternative to surgery? Who knows? Perhaps he'd read too many dismissive reports about it in the MSM. Had I not been motivated to do some fact-finding on my own, I might never have found out about the healing connection between my condition and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Is is any wonder that, according to The Commonwealth Fund, the U.S. health system is the most expensive in the world, but comparative analyses consistently show the United States underperforms relative to many other countries? Among the seven nations studied -- Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States -- the U.S. ranks last overall (the Netherlands ranks first, followed closely by the UK and Australia).

Veterinarians, on the other hand, faced with clients who are outspoken and demanding on behalf of their furry loved ones in a way that most patients aren't even for themselves, are more motivated to try out and recommend new technologies such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy. After all, there's no danger their four-footed patients will sue.