Veterans receive life-changing help with PTSD in Oklahoma

Veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries are getting the help they need for free in the Sooner State thanks to a new treatment that treats the cause instead of the symptoms.Sgt. Chris Gregg's first taste of combat in the first Gulf War when he fought start to finish in Kuwait."Kuwait was invaded on the second of August and I was there on the 10th of August," Gregg said. "I was there until the completion of the war."Ten years later, it was déjà vu as he returned to Kuwati."I was reliving some of the things I had done in the first Gulf War, breathing in oil to the point where you're spitting it up, seeing some of the places where we'd seen, you know, destroyed bodies, not just people that have died but mutilated bodies," Sgt. Gregg said. "After returning home, that's when everything really started to fall apart." Gregg was diagnosed with depression and post traumatic stress disorder. Years of pills and even electro-shock therapy didn't help. In fact, things got so bad, he considered ending it all."It's extremely hard to say you're suicidal, so I'd say its around five times that I was suicidal," Sgt. Gregg said.For Sgt. Gregg, one of his worst experiences was when he was seeking help at Oklahoma City's VA hospital."The VA doctor told me he didn't have room for me. I got upset, kicked over his trash can, and as we were walking out of the building, their security threw me on the ground, and they put me in jail," Sgt. Gregg said. "It was just another one of those trips where you're at the end of your rope and when you get turned away. Where was I supposed to go?" For Dr. William Duncan with the International Hyperbaric Medical Foundation, Gregg's story hits close to home. One of his closest family members went through the same thing."He was a Navy corpsman serving in the Marines he was discharged from service and he ended up living in the bedroom in the dark for the next two years," Dr. Duncan said.Then Dr. Duncan discovered hyperbaric oxygen therapy. It's commonly used for burn victims and diabetic patients but doctors say it can treat PTSD and traumatic brain injuries too. Dr. Stephen Gick works at the Patriot Clinic and he says the benefits can't be denied."The evidence is evidence-based medicine, there's no doctor who actually reads through that literature that can say this is not an acceptable, medical, this works its black and white now," Dr. Gick said. "So the oxygen can bring back the function of these injured areas.Dr. Gick said the key is the way the treatment works."We're treating the cause of the symptom, not the symptom," Dr. Gick said.This year, Oklahoma became the first state in the nation to approve this treatment for veterans. The new law creates a payment system, based solely on donations raised by Dr. Duncan's group. The International Hyperbaric Medical Foundation hopes to treat 5,000 veterans each year."These men and women their lives have fallen apart and we only have a few years to rescue them," Dr. Duncan said. "Basically two years their lives are shattered. It will restore hope it will reduce the suicide rate because there is hope."Right now, veterans like Gregg can go to the Patriot Clinic where it's always open and always free."They told me to come up on a Sunday said come on in we'll take care of ya," Gregg said. "So to be able to finally find a place like this that said come and we'll treat you period has been incredible."So far, Gregg has had 18 treatments He says one of his biggest problems is already gone."For the first time in 12 years, I'm not taking any sleeping meds so that's been a huge relief, just right there"Now, he's looking forward to his future free from the pain left behind by war."I'm just excited to see what all can happen," Gregg said. "I'm more comfortable, I feel better about life, the sky's the limit We're talking more about treatments that help veterans on Thursday during our Town Hall Caring for Veterans meeting. Click here for more information and to join the discussion.
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