A Tribute to Kenneth Locklear from Dr Harch

A Tribute to Ken Locklear: A Great Man, Father, Husband, Friend, and Contributor to Society
On January 11, 2011, all of those who knew him, all of those who didn’t have the good fortune and privilege of knowing him, and all of those who will know and benefit from his legacy in the future lost a father, husband, friend, colleague, employer, and selfless contributor to the betterment of mankind. Ken Locklear, the President of American Baromedical Corporation, Best Publishing Company, and Hyperbaric Medicine and Woundcare Magazine succumbed to cancer, a disease he valiantly resisted and in the process used to advance the field of hyperbaric medicine.
Ken’s tragically short life is an amazing story and a prideful one for all who knew him. Ken was a Navy diver who experienced a near fatal diving accident earlier in his life. His life was saved by the emergency application of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Not only did it save his life it launched him on a mission. He believed that his survival was purposeful and he became deeply spiritual. He felt that God had granted him a second chance during which he was to share with everyone the benefits of the therapy that saved him. Coming to the common sense appreciation of Cunningham’s Sensible Notion he believed that the application of hyperbaric oxygen therapy acutely to patients with a variety of other devastating injuries could save countless lives. This belief galvanized his commitment to bring hyperbaric oxygen therapy to everyone who was not as fortunate as him. His near death experience propelled him forward in a life dedicated to helping others.
Frustrated with narrow-mindedness, complicated political agendas, and obstructions to the advancement of hyperbaric medicine Ken helped found the International Hyperbaric Medical Association and became its first executive director. As Executive Director Ken was instrumental in securing the Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services’ approval of diabetic foot wounds as the first new CMS hyperbaric indication in 18 years. He was also responsible for inputting recommendations to the Texas State Insurance Commission on the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in their newly passed legislation mandating reimbursement of treatment for brain injury. On behalf of patients he represented the IHMA at state Medicaid hearings, medical board proceedings, and brought to the forefront important topics in hyperbaric medicine. Through his efforts he was able to force the publication of an article establishing the ethical basis of off-label application of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, forever changing the institutionalized mischaracterization of off-label hyperbaric oxygen therapy as “experimental.” During his three year tenure he tirelessly advocated for hyperbaric oxygen therapy without a salary and at considerable personal and financial sacrifice. In the midst of trying economic circumstances he self-funded and launched HBO Med Today, a hyperbaric medicine trade journal that quickly became widely read and acknowledged for its fair, balanced, and informative reporting. In HBO Med Today he was able to explore, investigate, and debate controversial important issues and further his work and the message of the IHMA. His work as executive director was precedent setting. The IHMA, the hyperbaric medicine community, and the American public are indebted to Ken for his many contributions as their first executive director.
When Ken resigned as executive director it was not a resignation of his career commitment to advance hyperbaric medicine. It was a strategic move to strengthen the foundation from which he could advance the field much further. He spawned American Baromedical Corporation with a contract at a Michigan hospital that fell to him by default due to his impeccable integrity. He added additional contracts and as an outgrowth of his dedication, hard work, spiritual commitment, and eschewing of greed he was rewarded with professional and financial success and a growing family by the time he was 38 years old. Unfortunately, at that exact age he was stricken with metastatic cancer. He was given a life expectancy of less than 6 months in 2007.
Ken then began the greatest fight of his life and in the process made a discovery that will have far-reaching ramifications. Ken combined hyperbaric oxygen therapy with his chemotherapy and never experienced the neutropenia, anemia, peripheral neuropathy, and sickening side effects of chemotherapy. His robust course through chemotherapy was so astounding that he pleaded with his oncologist for additional rounds of chemotherapy receiving over one and half times the amount of toxic chemotherapy for his cancer. Within months he was in complete remission. What soon followed was a successful application for a patent on the use of HBOT during chemotherapy to minimize side effects and a new, once again, self-funded project. This project was a research study on the combined application of chemo and HBOT in an animal cancer model. The preliminary results were positive and announced last year.
Ken’s cancer battle also resulted in his realization that he had the means and ability to accomplish his hyperbaric medicine goals through publication. He purchased Best Publishing Company and reformed HBO Med Today as Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine. Under these venues he began his balanced non-emotional factual publishing of some of the most important topics in hyperbaric medicine and was poised to make important advances in hyperbaric medicine.
More important than all of his contributions above, however, Ken Locklear should be remembered for his character and values. There are few that can match him. It’s why I so respected him and called him my friend, and why his loss is so devastating. Ken was a man of unquestioned honesty and trust, a man who not only stood for what is right, but did what was right, even when it was unpopular, stressful, or controversial. He embodied his spiritual commitment and was a beacon of integrity in a field where integrity has been historically questioned. He was never afraid to speak the truth, to stand up and ask a tough question, and try to openly discuss the many controversies and obstructions that have marred the field of hyperbaric medicine. He brought disclosure, openness, and transparency to hyperbaric medicine, tried to mend fences, and dispassionately publish competing viewpoints. In his last year faced with the possibility of the consequences of recurrent cancer he saw life through the eyes of a person with terminal cancer. He had no patience with petty differences and anything that interfered with the advance of hyperbaric medicine. He reached out to people filled with resentment and old grudges, tried to bring antagonists together, and mend fences within the hyperbaric medicine community. At the time of his death he had an ambitious list of projects and believed that he would survive to see them to fruition. If not he had planned for their execution without him. He said his fate was in God’s hands as he stopped chemotherapy and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
Weeks before his death he asked me a final medical question. He wanted to know what the end would be like. I told him that I thought it would be peaceful.
Our condolences to Ken’s young family. His passing is simply tragic and premature. We know his family is proud of him for his commitment to the betterment of mankind and his legacy. We will miss him deeply. May he rest in peace. Goodbye Ken.
Paul G. Harch, M.D.
Juliette Lucarini Harch

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