Neurosurgeon Dr. Julian Bailes is often at the cutting edge of the latest treatments for people with brain injuries. Former NFL players and other notable people with brain injuries—including Randal McCloy Jr., the sole surviving miner in the 2006 Sago Mine disaster in West Virginia—have received his care. Dr. Oz talks with Dr. Bailes about how he used omega-3 fatty acids, a common nutritional supplement, to aid in Randal's brain recovery.
On January 2, 2006, the nation was captivated by efforts to rescue 13 men who were trapped in the Sago coal mine explosion. While news sources initially reported that all 13 men were alive, tragically it was only Randal who survived. After more than 40 hours of exposure to carbon monoxide, Randal was entrusted into the care of many doctors, including Dr. Bailes. "He's had a massive heart attack from the carbon monoxide exposure, he was in kidney failure, liver failure, he was dehydrated, he was hypothermic and he was in the deepest of coma," he says. "We didn't have anything promising."
Soon though, Dr. Bailes says he and the other doctors were confident they could save Randal's life, but it was uncertain if his brain would recover from its extensive injuries. Randal was given three hypobaric oxygen treatments, but Dr. Bailes says there was no drug available that could help repair his damaged brain. "Since there was no drug to do it ... why don't we give him what his brain was made from in the first place, when he was an embryo in his mother's womb?" Dr. Bailes says. That substance was omega-3 fatty acids. "Omega-3 fatty acids—EPA and DHA—[are] what people commonly would call fish oil, but we gave him a super variety in extremely high doses, up to 19 grams a day that we delivered to him in a liquid form through his tube that was in his stomach," he says.
As Randal's brain functions started to improve, Dr. Bailes recorded his findings and now says people suffering from minor to severe brain injuries can benefit greatly from omega-3s. "Consider this as a nutritional supplement, if you will, for their recovery, which I think has very profound effects on the brain," he says. While Randal was the first known person with brain injuries to be treated with omega-3s, Dr. Bailes says he won't likely be the last. And, Dr. Bailes says everyone can benefit from the supplement—in fact, he says he takes 800 milligrams of algae-based DHA a day.