Every week, Flo Hunter steps into a high-pressure chamber, pulls a mask over her face and breathes in a high dose of oxygen.
The East Antrim woman, who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis, has found that the process - known as hyperbaric oxygen treatment (HBOT) – eases symptoms of the disease.
While HBOT is not a cure, the treatment has provided life-changing benefits for Flo and countless patients like her over the years.
Patients are treated in a specialised pressure chamber where they can breathe 100 per cent pure oxygen.
This causes large amounts of oxygen to be dissolved into patients’ blood and tissues, penetrating areas of the body that oxygen-carrying red blood cells cannot reach.
This can be effective in helping to heal wounds and avoid deterioration in illnesses such as MS.
After using HBOT, in conjunction with the centre’s electromagnetic healing therapy, Flo was able to feel her toes for the first time in six years.
She said: “I wish I had known about this hidden gem much earlier and I now attend sessions twice a week.
“I am delighted with my progress and my energy levels have greatly increased.”
But it is not just MS sufferers who are reaping the benefits of the services provided by the Magheramorne-based centre.
While only MS patients initially used the therapy after the centre was established in 1988, over the years various ailments as diverse as sports injuries, cerebral palsy, arthritis, brain injuries, autism, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s Disease and ME have been added to the list.
Vickie Shaw, manager of the Oxygen Therapy Centre told the Times that cancer patients can also benefit from the treatment.
“Exposure to 100 per cent pure oxygen helps with the tiredness and nausea associated with radiotherapy and chemotherapy,” she said.
“Last year, over 2000 patients used our HBOT and electromagnetic therapies.
“This is one of only three such facilities in Northern Ireland, so it is a real blessing to have this centre on our doorstep. Most of our patients are from the wider Larne area, but we also have people coming from all over Northern Ireland and further afield.”
Vickie, who has been with the Oxygen Therapy Centre for about 10 years, added: “At present we have about 40-50 patients, but that changes on a weekly basis.
“Most patients have an intensive introductory course of 20 hour-long sessions then scale back depending on their symptoms.
“As we are a non-profit making organisation, anyone having the treatment is asked to make a small donation for each session.”