Why? Because visiting Vanek, and her altitude-adjusting hyperbaric chamber at Telluride Hyperbarics, is their ticket to a symptom-free vacation in Telluride.
At nearly 9,000 feet above sea level, Telluride sits at an altitude known for spectacular mountain vistas and high alpine landscapes – but that’s also an elevation at which the symptoms of being at altitude are frequently experienced by unacclimated visitors. But there are solutions.
As Vanek explains the comfortable hyperbaric chamber increases air pressure, creating an environment akin to descending in altitude. The laws of physics tell us that under increased pressure more gasses dissolve in liquids, hence our body keeps more oxygen.
The session takes an hour, and clients comfortably sit or recline, reading or listening to their Ipods or music provided by Telluride Hyperbarics. (I-pads are OK in chamber).
Vanek and husband Richard Thorpe have been operating Telluride Hyperbarics for 11 years, during which time they’ve been able to see first hand how helpful a hyperbaric treatment has become for many of their regular clients.
Typically, symptoms range from mild to severe, including lousy sleep, fatigue, headache, nausea, shortness of breath and vomiting. The influence of altitude is mostly felt in the first 24-48 hours of arriving at altitude, and can last a few days. Which, in the case of someone visiting Telluride for a short period, could mean a vacation tarnished if not completely ruined. In one instance that Vanek remembers, one treatment at Telluride Hyperbarics enabled a family that was thinking of leaving Telluride early on account of a bout with altitude to not only stay for the entire length of their vacation, but actually enjoy the remainder of their time here.
“This little girl looked just drowned when her parents carried her in,” Vanek recalls. “She was tired and did not want to walk. “ Within 15 minutes her color had changed from pale to rosy. After 30 minutes the little girl was singing to her mother (two small people can fit in the chamber.) By the time she emerged from the chamber after the normal 60-minute treatment, she was waltzing out of the Main Street office in her pink fuzzy boots. She attended Ski School for the remainder of the trip (as Vanek explains, a typical treatment can produce results for an entire week.)
“It’s so rewarding to see people being able to have fun while on vacation,” says Vanek. who was a travel guide and an executive before entering into the wellness profession.
Born in Czechoslovakia to a family of known artists and healers (her great-grandfather wrote a healing book) she enjoys research and is also a certified medical massage therapist and trained in other complementary modalities (Shiatsu, reflexology, etc).
Vanek is quick to point out, however, that a hyperbaric treatment isn’t always necessary for altitude effects. Sometimes, for milder cases of AMS, a trip to the Bubble Lounge or the Peaks for an Oxygen Bar (two local purveyors of concentrated oxygen) will do the trick. In the more severe cases, she insists on a visit to the Medical Center and examination by a physician.
But for those repeat clients who have made Telluride Hyperbarics their first stop after arriving in Telluride, a visit to the hyperbaric chamber is indeed a necessity.
“After people book their flights to Telluride, they call me next to make an appointment. They want to have a predictable first night in Telluride. They want to be able to eat a normal dinner and sleep normally,” Vanek says, “and they tell me a session here gives them that.”
Telluride Hyperbarics is located above the Llama restaurant, on Main Street. The office can be reached at (970) 369-4566.