More than 1.7 million people sustain traumatic brain injuries every year. They happen on our roadways, on the battle field, on the playground and on the football field. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a disruption of normal brain function caused by a bump, blow, jolt or penetrating wound to the head caused by an external force.
TBI causes primary injury to brain tissue which may cause damage to the axons or “wires” that connect brain structures as well as bleeding or bruising of brain tissue. This leads to an inflammatory response, as the brain responds to injury, producing swelling and increased pressure within the brain. This increased pressure can impede blood flow and cause varying levels of oxygen deprivation in brain tissue, a potential cause of brain dysfunction or cell death.
Most TBIs that occur are mild and are called “concussions”. A concussion may or may not render the victim unconscious.
In a 2013 Report to Congress on Traumatic Brain Injury specifically focused on the public health impact of returning military, it was found that from 2000 -2011, over 235,000 service members or 4.2% of the total of 5.6MM who served in all branches of the military, were diagnosed with a TBI. Seventy-seven percent (77%) of those were diagnosed with mild TBI.
The report estimated that 33% of those with mild TBI may develop “post-concussion syndrome”, a syndrome characterized by headaches, depression, irritability, sleep disorders, poor concentration and fatigue.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is being studied in the treatment of mild TBI, Post-Concussion Syndrome and PTSD. The rationale for the use HBOT is based on its ability to dramatically increase, by 2-3 times, the delivery of oxygen to brain tissues to help them function more optimally, and to reduce inflammation in the brain.
Sergeant, Nick Santoro USMC:
I wanted to give you my perspective on the injuries and treatment I received while serving as a Marine Veteran for three tours, one in Haiti in 2003 and the other two were in Iraq from 2004 to 2006. My injuries came from a Humvee explosion in Ramadi Iraq in 2006. I also sustained multiple injuries before and after in Falluja Iraq and Haiti.
I was not sent home immediately after my injuries as I chose to stay with my unit. We were having so many guys sent home during that time due to injuries/deaths that we had to start borrowing people from other bases with different jobs and even branches of service for our patrols. With that said, I did not want to leave my men and wanted to stay to help anyway I could. I was put on light duty for a month or so until I was capable of doing things on my own. I was then assigned as a gunner in my old Humvee instead of a dismount because I could no longer run and jump like I could before my injuries. That was not my job in the Marines but I was willing to do anything I could to get back into the fight with my brothers.
My recovery treatments did not start immediately since I was still in Iraq. I was able to begin treatments approximately 6-8 months after returning home from Iraq in 2006-2007. The reason for this was due to the process veterans go through. They are not allowed to see their families if they say too much too soon (PTSD issues or anything else that may have to be looked at further by doctors). I went to 3-4 different doctors a day every day for over a year before I was finally medically retired from the Marines. I went to physical therapy, sports medicine, Chiropractors, Cognitive Therapy, Pain Management, Neuro Psych, regular Psychologist, sleep studies, MRI, Cat Scans, PET scans, you name it, I tried it. I was on more medicine then I care to remember. I can’t remember how many meds I was on at one specific time because they were always changing.
Cognitively I was struggling as a result of my injuries and because I was on so many different medications. I suffered tremendously with migraines after the blast and they got even worse after returning home. The migraines became an everyday event and I needed medicine to knock me out in effort to cope. Other pains I suffered with included back and shoulder tears along with neck problems. This cause pain even from me sitting down in a chair for a long period of time, walking for too long, and even sleeping.
I didn’t work or go to school for over a year after returning home to live at my parent’s home. I didn’t remember where rooms were in my house nor could I remember my own sister’s name at times, mainly because of all the meds I was on. After time passed, my parents encouraged me to start school. If I did not agree to attend, I was not going to be allowed to live with them. Although this was tough love, I did not take it kindly at first. In retrospect, it was the only thing to get me moving and I thank them for that.
All during the while, my father did some research on Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy treatments and found that Dr. Paul Harch, located in New Orleans, was doing a Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) study on Traumatic Brain Injury & Post Traumatic Stress (TBI/PTS). I went there for over a month along with one other friend to help deal with the issues I suffered with related to TBI/PTS. I received a total of 40 treatments. After the first few treatments, my migraines went away completely and have not returned except for rare circumstances. HBOT has definitely helped reduce the physical pain as well as the symptoms I suffered with specific TBI/PTS. If I could keep doing this treatment I would without hesitation. I recommend HBOT and stand behind this treatment full heartedly.
After I returned home my family was amazed by the progress I made. As I continued to improve, I enrolled at Bucks County Community College. I later graduated from Drexel University, something I couldn’t have imagined doing without treating with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. I am currently attempting to work with my father doing property management and real estate. HBOT has helped me dramatically with my TBI issues, pain and some others but I still suffer from PTSD. Because of this I cannot fully work and still struggle but thanks to HBOT I am now able to get through the day and see the light at the end of the tunnel that in time I will be able to work without handholding.
“Since treating at Oxygen Oasis Hyperbaric Wellness Center, located close to my home in Langhorne Pennsylvania, I have noticed that my mind is clear. I also noticed a decrease in pain in my back, unfortunately, I still had pain in my shoulders. I used to get depressed when my brain was foggy and I couldn’t think straight and was forgetful. It addition to being depressed, I got agitated and things would snowball from there. My girlfriend tells me my mood has been better, more stable, not as many mood swings. I sleep more soundly, can think more clearly, and am less forgetful. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is the best treatment I have ever received. I have been through every type of treatment available and tried every medication the doctor prescribed for me. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy helped me more in two days than a years’ worth of medications. Treating with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is something I love doing. It makes me feel more like myself. I’m hopeful that one day other Veterans will be able to get this treatment close to their homes as well.” Nick Santoro, USMC
These videos give more insight into the potential represented by Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
CAPT Smotherman / Rep John Bennett
RMHI with Margaux and SGT Ramirez http://vimeo.com/77100044
RMHI with Margaux and SGT Ramirez http://vimeo.com/77100044