Gulf War Syndrome is real and deadly. Now Veterans suffering from this mysterious disease may find healing in a study sponsored by NOVA Southeastern University, the 22 Project, and Hyperbaric Services of the Palm Beaches, LLC.
Using Hyperbaric Oxygen to treat Gulf War Illness is not new, but the scientific study will investigate objective outcomes in veterans who have been denied actual healing for their brain and other physical illnesses caused by a myriad of battlefield conditions, including breathing toxic air and burn pit smoke and debris. The symptoms can include headaches, fatigue, memory problems, anxiety/depression, sleep disturbances, skin rashes, breathing problems, sensitivity to chemicals and smells, and gastrointestinal disorders.
Not surprisingly, those symptoms are exacerbated by the Coronavirus pandemic. The symptoms also overlap with other epidemics afflicting combat veterans: suicides and drug abuse. On this Veterans Day, for over 800,000 post-9/11 veterans and active duty service members, Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are daily reminders of their government's unwillingness to adequately diagnose and treat their brain injuries with known safe and effective treatments.
A recent Netflix release, The Social Dilemma, encapsulates the cultural blindness and mindset that afflicts current protocols for dealing with "mental illness" and the basket of physical, emotional, psychological, behavioral, cognitive and spiritual damage done to our wounded warriors. A psychological and bureaucratic mind-set has grown up around established protocols and "standard of care," irrespective of the demonstrated failures to prevent and reverse the suicide epidemic, or to provide a path back to the "old normal" as opposed to the "new normal" of degraded and reduced quality of life.
Yet there are pockets of resistance, led by legislative and medical advances to treat and help heal brain wounds. Congress has recently passed and the President has signed legislation calling on the VA to use HBOT to treat brain injuries, TBI/PTSD. Seven states in the US have passed legislation enabling veterans to seek and get treatment with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT): Oklahoma, Texas, Indiana, Kentucky, Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina. While progress has been slow, for over a decade veterans lucky enough to get help with HBOT have shown positive medical improvement. Under safe and effective conditions, over 7,500 veterans and citizens have had lives restored. Yet despite this success, the VA, DoD, and medicine in general resist using this cost effective and proven intervention.
And despite the legislation, resistance continues. For example, in 2018, Kentucky House Bill 64, “The Colonel Ronald D. Ray Traumatic Brain Injury and Treatment Act”, was passed. Colonel Ray was a life-long Kentuckian, highly decorated Marine combat veteran. He was the founder and first Chairman of the Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Frankfort, an attorney, author, lecturer, and avid supporter of the troops.
HB 64 was legislated to open Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy to TBI veterans presently underserved. Colonel Ray was denied access to oxygen therapies in Louisville in 2015; his TBI from Vietnam that eventually lead to his dementia wasn’t on the FDA list of approved treatment protocols using HBOT. That all was supposed to change under the new statute. The law does not allow for the healthcare provider to deny access or treatment of TBI veterans under the current statue. And yet today, there is not a healthcare provider in Kentucky which has come forward to provide care for those veterans with TBI diagnosis and the ability to pay for the HBOT treatments. Not a single servicemember provided HBOT for their TBI. No HBOT for Kentucky TBI veterans even though they have laid their life on the line for our country and deserve to be granted fair and equal medical treatment under Kentucky law.
Conversely, Clark Memorial Hospital in Jeffersonville, IN in concert with Purdue University and the state of Indiana currently have a two-year $1M clinical HBOT treatment program for TBI veterans underway. And a few doctors in the DoD and VA systems have come forward to both recommend and enable payment for HBOT treatments of active duty and veteran members. Those lucky enough to find such honorable individuals have uniformly had their lives changed for the better.
This Veterans Day can be the beginning of what VA Secretary Wilkie repetitively says but fails to ensure: the VA takes seriously its responsibility to ensure the best mental health care possible. Despite a $200 Billion budget, over 70% of veterans shun the VA, and the suicide rate continues to increase. Care for Veterans suffering from Gulf War Illness, brain injuries, prescription narcotic overdosing, burn pits, Lejeune toxic water scandals, and diabetic foot wound neglect must improve.
The latest research into the use of HBOT for Gulf War Illness, sadly outside and unfunded by the VA, is a step in the direction that medicine and citizens can and must take to hold the VA accountable for negligence in both the diagnoses and treatments of the multiple epidemics affecting too many of the nation's 17 million veterans.
For more information on the Gulf War Illness study, Contact Dr. Alison Bested in the Institute for Neuro-Immune Medicine at NSU, (954) 262-2898. See also: http://www.support22project.org/
and Hyperbaric Services of the Palm Beaches, http://www.hbotxofpalmbeach.com/index.html