Winter weather means outdoor fun — and a reminder about indoor safety

It’s colorless and odorless, and it claims the lives of more than 400 people in the United States every year. It’s carbon monoxide (CO), and it can be found in the exhaust of gasoline engines, stoves, generators, lanterns or by burning charcoal and wood.

Some of the symptoms of CO poisoning include nausea and vomiting, headache, dizziness, fainting and confusion — symptoms that are similar to — and often mistaken for — stomach flu.

“But if there’s a CO source, and others are also feeling ill,  CO should be the first suspect,” explains Dr. Cheryl Adkinson, Medical Director of the Center for Hyperbaric Medicine at HCMC.  “Don’t dismiss the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. You should get medical help right away if you think you’ve been exposed to this deadly gas.”

For those who plan on doing a little fishing once the lakes are frozen, it’s important to know that carbon monoxide poisoning can set in within a few minutes in a small, heated and confined space like an ice house.

Make sure you enjoy the great winter weather — but don’t let carbon monoxide poisoning or any other safety concern get in the way! Visit for more information about how to avoid CO poisoning and keep those outdoor activities safe.

HCMC’s Center for Hyperbaric Medicine opens in June

HCMC will open the new Center for Hyperbaric Medicine, which includes a 60-ton hyperbaric chamber, on hospital’s main campus in downtown Minneapolis in mid-June. The 48-foot long chamber, which arrived in sections last November, replaces the current 49-year-old hyperbaric chamber located two blocks away.

HCMC will continue to have the only multi-chamber hyperbaric oxygen facility in the region that’s used for 24/7 emergency treatment of critically ill patients: usually victims of carbon monoxide exposure or life-threatening infections, but also cerebral gas embolism and decompression sickness (“the bends”).

“This new facility is one of the most thoughtfully designed multiplace chamber ensembles in the world for delivering critical care,” says Dr. Cheryl Adkinson, Medical Director of the Center for Hyperbaric Medicine. “From monitoring to communication, environmental control, and gas delivery systems – the arrangement and the individual capabilities of the three connecting chambers will provide maximum flexibility to simultaneously manage multiple combinations of critically ill and stable, scheduled patients.”

In addition to being a life-saving emergency treatment for some conditions, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is also used to treat radiation injuries, diabetic ulcers, and other chronic wounds.

“As our population ages and becomes more obese,  more and more people are suffering from diabetes and chronic diabetic foot ulcers” explains Dr. Adkinson. “Diabetes damages blood vessels, leading to low tissue oxygen levels and poor healing; however, by delivering high levels of oxygen to tissues of the body, many of these wounds can heal, preventing the painful and life-changing complications of amputation.”

The $10.9 million project was paid for by a combination of county, state, federal and hospital funding sources.  It included construction of a 10,278-square foot addition to the hospital’s main campus on 7th Street in Minneapolis. Patients from Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Western Wisconsin and the Canadian border are referred to HCMC for hyperbaric oxygen treatment. The facility has three multiple-person chambers as well as a single monoplace chamber.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

HCMC is a leader in trauma and critical care medicine. The Level I Adult Trauma Center and Level I Pediatric Trauma Center opened a completely renovated Burn Center last fall, one of only two critical care burn centers in Minnesota verified by the American Burn Association (ABA) and the American College of Surgeons (ACS).  Over the past five years, all adult intensive care units have been relocated and renovated within the downtown facility and this year the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit will be renovated.

More information about the construction of the new hyperbaric chamber facility 

HCMC’s first HBO “veteran” on hand for installation day

Weighing in at 60 tons, HCMC’s new 48-foot long hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) chamber arrived at about 9:45 p.m. on Wednesday, November 16. On Thursday morning, it was unloaded from the truck and placed inside the 10,278-square foot addition to the Purple Building.

New hyperbaric chamber waiting to be placed in its new home.
Dr. Cheryl Adkinson and Dr. Ernie Ruiz

Dr. Cher Adkinson, Medical Director of Hyperbaric Medicine, and Dr. Ernie Ruiz, former Chief of Emergency Medicine, were on hand to see the new HBO chamber and take a behind-the-scenes tour of the new addition. Dr. Ruiz was an early advocate of hyperbaric medicine, and he reminisced about the early days of the current chamber and when he and Dr. John Haglin, assistant chief of surgery, participated in its first test dive.

“We were the guinea pigs, so to speak,” said Dr. Ruiz, “When the old chamber was delivered, it was all set up and ready to go using meters and gauges, but no one had actually taken a dive in it. Dr. Haglin and I dove in it to the maximum usable depth of 6 atmospheres to make sure everything worked, then we came back up. It was a brief dive, but it had to be done. We wanted to show that it was safe.”

Dr. Ruiz and Dr. Adkinson watch as crews unveil the new chamber.

Dr. Ruiz is excited about the new chamber and gives accolades to Dr. Adkinson and her staff, including retired nurse manager Jan DeRoche, for championing hyperbaric medicine at HCMC. “The chamber is a huge asset for the entire state. It saves lives, and is an invaluable resource.”

HCMC currently has the only multi-chamber hyperbaric oxygen facility in the state that’s used for 24/7 emergency treatment of critically ill patients; usually victims of carbon monoxide exposure. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is also used for treatments including radiation injuries, diabetic ulcers, chronic wound healing, and the HCMC chamber is used for research showing promise for patients with a traumatic brain injury.
The new hyperbaric chamber and wound healing center will open in the Spring of 2012.

Fox 9 and KARE 11 News crews covered the arrival and installation of the chamber on their news programs throughout the day on November 17. Go to to see some of the coverage.