News Blog

BLOG #6: Special Operators at Increased Risk of Suicide

SPECIAL: As in elite, top 1%. OPERATOR: Unique, unconventional, goal-focused, the tip of the spear. Warriors, whether on the battlefield or in the arena. Special Forces-Green Berets, Navy SEALs, JSOC Operators, MARSOC Raiders. And elite athletes from football, rugby, MMA, tennis, basketball, swimming, wrestling, or soccer. Gaining and keeping the edge, to win, to stay alive, to dominate. And warriors come into aggressive contact with and cause body-busting, mission-focused mayhem. Results can vary, but invariably, the brain is one of the body systems negatively affected by assaults. Sure, warriors train to inflict and avoid damage, but it is inevitable, and medicine should adapt to provide the absolute best healing to correct that damage and restore ability to return to peak performance.
Today’s news brings two pieces of the puzzle that can help explain why this epidemic of suicide among our elite continues. Researchers at Purdue University have received a $1.3M grant to develop solutions to what U.S. military officials call an alarming trend in dementia among wounded soldiers, while also seeking solutions to better treat Alzheimer’s disease. “This project is highly relevant to the military, in that there is an alarming trend in the increasing reports of post-traumatic brain injury (TBI), Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia among wounded soldiers, imposing enormous emotional and economic burdens on military families, their communities and society as a whole,” according to Gaurav Chopra, an assistant professor of analytical and physical chemistry at Purdue.
And this. Congresswoman Karen Bass draws our attention to the potentially flawed COVID-19 vaccine trials by reference to the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male.” Years after penicillin had been proven, patients with syphilis were denied knowledge and treatment with penicillin. For decades, black men in Alabama were kept alive, without knowledge of or access to a known treatment, so that their bodies could be autopsied at death.
On both the Concussion and the COVID-9 front, hundreds of millions of dollars are being poured into research on “What is this?” and on dubious or debunked “therapies” while a potentially powerful, safe and immediately available treatment, Hyperbaric Oxygenation, is an orphan.
Denial of “informed consent” threatens the simultaneous epidemics of Coronavirus and service member suicide. Patients are not being told about the safety and efficacy of using oxygen under pressure to reverse disease states and heal wounds. 
The TreatNOW Coalition, in association with dozens of VSOs and clinics across the US, is focused on suicides and brain-wounded Special Operators using Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) and some adjunct therapies. Thanks to groups like America’s Mighty Warriors, there are over 7,500 success stories with other service members, professional and amateur athletes, and civilians with TBI/PTSD. The work has been largely pro bono and quiet; active duty patients don’t and won’t talk openly about their treatments. They certainly don’t want the stigma associated with having “mental health” issues. And professional athletes put their careers, if not their lives, on the line when they take time out to actually heal a wound to the brain.
Let us be clear. We see only tips of the icebergs. The high-velocity tempo of war and sports lead to brain damage; tens of thousands of injuries, only some of which are properly diagnosed. A brain injury occurs from a blow to the head, either with or without loss of consciousness and can lead to temporary or long-lasting cognitive symptoms. Symptoms may include headache, confusion, lack of coordination, memory loss, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, ringing in the ears, sleepiness, and excessive fatigue.
And here’s an important caveat that medicine expects the patient and the parent to believe: the party line it that there’s no specific cure for concussion. Rest and restricting activities allow the brain to recover. This means one should temporarily reduce activity, video games, TV, or too much socializing. Medications for headache pain and other symptoms can be prescribed. Warrior “treatment,” whether in theater or at home, has evolved to where the wounded are taking some time off to get themselves together. Lots of R&E programs exist, yet none are focused on healing the wound to the brain. 
Well. The folks who say there is no treatment are simply wrong. We currently have several arrangements in place with Professional athletes, SEAL, EOD, Force Recon, Ranger, Raiders and others to treat active-duty brain-wounded SpecOps in HBOT chambers around the US. 
Dr. Eddie Zant has long been involved with SpecOps community. He knows from decades of clinical work that there is agreement by all treated that: a) HBOT has been safe and effective in getting them off most drugs and restoring their quality of life; b) military medical help available to them has been inadequate, focusing mostly on symptom reduction, drugs and an array of therapies. Palliative measures may help in the short term, but they never get at the physical wound to the brain. Symptoms inevitably return; c) HBOT helped them get better, so much so that their lives, marriages and careers are now possible again; d) they see a need to make this treatment available to all SpecOps warriors. In their assessment, a disproportionate percentage of the SpecOps community with multiple tours is “crushed” and “hollowed out” with all the tours, injuries and unceasing deployments; and e) the wives and families of these healed warriors have “gotten my man back.” 
At the end of the day, TreatNOW is about treating and healing the wounds to the brain and body to abate the suicide epidemic among service members and athletes. This “campaign” to draw attention to HBOT-for-TBI by teaming retired NFL ballplayers and Special Operations forces, all afflicted with brain injuries, is fundamentally focused on treatment and clinical medicine, but with rigorous scientific and research built into the protocol. The success that we expect while treating — confirmed by peer-reviewed research and hundreds of success stories already being told — is an attempt with Capitol Hill and the press to draw attention to the safety and efficacy of a treatment that DOD/VA and military and conventional medicine deny to the wounded. 
The reasons this treatment is “unproven” are lodged in a medical culture that misconceives the nature of the injury. When a 3-star General admitted on 60 Minutes over 10-years ago that he was “gobsmacked” when he learned about the nature of TBI and the visible damage to the brain caused by war, you know that his medical doctors are not telling him the truth about Blast injury. And when doctors and trainers in professional sports are still arguing about whether banging your head repeatedly and suffering uncounted Concussions “might” lead to brain injury, you know that someone really doesn’t want to know. What we know and what they might begin to realize is that HBOT might be the equivalent of penicillin for brain wounds. 
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