By Tammy Allison – THE VILLAGE REPORTER
What began as a tragedy in the lives of two families, has blossomed into a ministry serving individuals across states and even into other countries. The Burkholder and Rychener families anticipated a blessed event in the birth of their son and grandson on March 15, 2002, only this pregnancy and birth did not end as joyfully expected. Sara Burkholder died during childhood birth leaving spouse Jay to raise newborn son Jackson alone. Jackson’s little life was not without his own set of challenges, though. Jackson, born without oxygen during the delivery, experienced the effects that lack of oxygen can have on the body and was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy (CP).
At age 13 months, the family learned of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) treatment. Grandmothers took turns transporting Jackson to Detroit for treatments. The family began to see immediate positive changes in Jackson. For instance, he no longer cried in his car seat, and his appetite increased three fold. In the next nine months, he grew 7 inches and gained 7 pounds. The family realized how fortunate they were to be able to take Jackson to Detroit for treatments, but also realized that many other families would not easily be able to do this. A vision unfolded-maybe people in this community could benefit from such a facility if one was closer. Possibly families with triplets with CP or single mothers with children with disabilities in this community could be helped by HBOT.
Today, several years later after this vision first enveloped the families with a God-given purpose; Sara’s Garden has transpired into a reality and will celebrate their 10 year anniversary on May 5, 2014. If you drive by Sara’s Garden at the corner of Leggett Street and Lawrence Avenue in Wauseon, you will notice a construction project in full-swing. Judy Burkholder, Clinic Director and Jackson’s grandmother, shares that Sara’s Garden is presently in Stage 1 of their building expansion process. The facility is in desperate need of more office space. The construction is presently focused on six additional offices, a conference area, a mini-café area for clients to prepare food between treatments, an expanded assessment room, and an expanded waiting area for families and friends. Phase 2 of the project will include removing the original chamber, refurbishing it, painting it purple to match the other, newer chamber, and changing the entrance to allow for more efficient flow.
Sara’s Garden treated its first clients with hyperbaric oxygen therapy in April 2005. The original hyperbaric chamber was donated by the United States Navy and is a refurbished and reliable U.S. Navy dive chamber. HBOT is the administration of 100% pure oxygen in the presence of pressure. The chamber that a person sits inside for the treatment acts as a pop can, and the patient becomes like “living soda pop.” During the treatment, oxygen is dissolved directly into the blood so the body no longer has to rely on red blood cells to absorb oxygen. Patients undergoing treatments wear a hood while inside the chamber. The original chamber holds 5 clients/staff while the newer HyperTec 7200 Series hyperbaric chamber constructed specifically for Sara’s Garden in April 2010, holds 10 clients/ staff.
Inside the spacious chamber more than oxygen exchange occurs. Relationships are built. Burkholder shared that during the past summer months, a “killer Uno club” was going on inside the chamber during treatments. Patients undergo treatments consisting of anywhere from 75 minutes to greater than 2 hours depending on diagnosis. During their treatments, they can watch TV, read, work on homework, visit with one another, and play games. People become support systems to one another, and long-lasting relationships are built across the country. This summer, Burkholder spent time in the chamber with children from Oregon, Mississippi, West Virginia, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Louisiana, and Canada. Because so many families travel from out of town, Sara’s Garden also has an off-site Jackson House that families can stay at.
HBOT has been proven effective in a multitude of conditions such as anemia, diabetes, sports injuries, stroke, migraines, burns, Cerebral Palsy, brain injuries, Multiple Sclerosis, insect bites, spinal injuries, and many other conditions. Health benefits include enhancing white blood cell activity, reducing swelling and inflammation, increasing production of stem cells, boosting the immune system, boosting metabolism, increasing appetite, reducing scarring, increasing metabolism and appetite, decreasing pain, and reversing tissue damage to name a few.
A multitude of success stories testify to the blessing of Sara’s Garden. For Beth Yackee, a freshman at Wauseon High School, her soccer injury April of her eighth grade year resulted in a broken tibia, and ended her spring traveling soccer season. Looking forward to playing high school soccer, she was disappointed when her leg was not healing as quickly as she expected. In September, her family turned to HBOT for hope, and in only 2 weeks of treatments, the bone had started to grow. Yackee says, “It sped up the bone growth, and I was released to practice and play soccer. I really think it [HBOT] works.” She was even able to finish her freshman soccer season with some varsity playing time.
Although Sara’s Garden is most widely known for its HBOT, they also offer other services to the community. Connected with Sara’s Garden is the New Horizons Academy School which offers conductive education, sensory processing, and autism intervention. The school offers a holistic learning approach utilizing the conductive education principles to serve children with special learning needs. The school is held at the Hope Center on Sara’s Garden property and is an Ohio Department of Education recognized school. New Horizons Academy has seen increased enrollment of students over the past few years. The additional offices being built at Sara’s Garden will serve as temporary classrooms for the school. The Board has authorized the drawing up for an addition to the school to house 10-12 more classrooms. If approval is granted, the construction will start in April to be completed for the 2014-2015 school year.
Sara’s Garden saves human suffering and gives hope to parents and children. Burkholder expresses, “Our clients have so many needs. Parents want their kids to be okay. We are taking care of families.” Their website shares countless success stories of how HBOT has helped people with a variety of ailments, but those behind the vision of Sara’s Garden are quick to give all the credit to God.
Burkholder shares a compelling story of a dream that Julie Rychener had… a dream of waves, waves and waves of children. “We are there,” Burkholder says, “waves and waves of children-we serve them so that they may live a productive, independent life. Jesus told us that little kids are his favorite.” Burkholder is quick to express that if Sara’s Garden isn’t able to provide these children with the best services that they need for their issues, they will help them find where they can best be served.
The future vision for Sara’s Garden? “We have 9 ½ acres in city limits. We would love to see the entire 9 ½ acres built to serve people.” They envision an onsite health care center, an onsite Jackson House for clients to stay when traveling to Sara’s Garden, a handicap accessible playground, an indoor therapy swimming pool, a daycare center, a cafeteria for clients and families, and even possibly a place for families to get a massage or pedicure while loved ones undergo treatments. The possibilities are endless, the vision is huge, but through it all, those behind Sara’s Garden will attest that God has been faithful.
The mission of Sara’s Garden is about helping people reach their fullest potential in life. For her own grandson Jackson born without oxygen and with Cerebral Palsy, Burkholder says, “My goal for my grandson is he will go to college, he will be socially productive.” Sara’s Garden does not define people by their disabilities but by their potential. Sara’s Garden is a 501(c)(3) non-profit facility so all gifts are tax-deductible and 100 % of the gift goes directly to benefit real people. For more information about the services they provide or how you can give to Sara’s Garden, you can visit their website at http://www.sarasgarden.org
Tammy Allison may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org