Rebuilding the Brain
Julian Whitaker, MD
It was April 11, 2005, and Angel Gomez, a 19-year-old Marine, was a month and a half into his second tour in Iraq. During a night mission near Ramadi, the vehicle he was driving hit a roadside bomb. Two weeks later, he awoke in a VA hospital in Maryland—with a long road to recovery ahead of him.
Angel had been seriously wounded. Not only did he sustain a blast injury, but shrapnel had destroyed part of his skull and damaged areas of his brain. After several reconstructive surgeries, he was transferred to a trauma rehab center in California where he began the arduous task of relearning how to talk, walk, and perform other activities of daily living.
His progress was remarkable. Angel graduated from a wheelchair to a cane to walking on his own. He learned to write and eat with his left hand to compensate for his partially paralyzed right arm. His speech returned, albeit slow and halting, and he regained cognitive function, although he still had some frustrating memory deficits. But after three years of intensive therapy, Angel seemed to hit a wall. So he came to the Whitaker Wellness Institute for hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT).
A Proven Therapy for Brain Injuries
HBOT should be the treatment of choice for all traumatic brain injuries. When the brain is damaged, a vicious cycle is set into motion. Inflammation, impairments in blood flow and oxygen delivery, and free-radical activity destroy neurons in the immediate area, and damage spreads outward. However, not all brain cells die outright. Some of them simply go into “shock.” And although they’re not functioning normally, they can be revived.
Hyperbaric treatment simply awakens these neurons. When you breathe 100 percent oxygen in a special pressurized chamber, oxygen diffuses into all the body’s fluids, including the cerebrospinal fluid that bathes the brain and spinal column. This allows life-sustaining oxygen to reach damaged neurons and restore their function. Repeat treatments also stimulate the growth of new capillaries that restore blood supply and mobilize stem cells, which regenerate neurons and other cells.
Thousands of clinical studies demonstrate HBOT’s benefits. Particularly revealing are before-and-after SPECT scans. It doesn’t take an expert to see the differences. As metabolic activity returns, previously dark areas with little blood flow or neurological activity literally light up.
After 80 hyperbaric treatments, Angel has made unprecedented progress. He’s quicker, in both his speech and thought processes, and his memory is getting better all the time. Angel reports that he’s texting his friends, something he wasn’t able to do before. He’s feeling more energetic, confident, and in control of his future. He’s also noticed improvements in his right arm. It’s more flexible and feels stronger.
Hope for Injured Veterans
The Pentagon recently announced that an estimated 360,000 of our fighting forces deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered traumatic brain injuries. Some are caused by open or closed head trauma, but a disturbing number are attributed to blast injuries.
Roadside bombs are the most common weapons used against our troops. When detonated, the ensuing blasts create powerful shock waves that cause both concussions and the formation of air bubbles (emboli) that lodge in vessels in the brain. The result is damage that often persists long after initial symptoms wear off.
Many of those affected bear no visible signs of trauma. Yet up to a quarter have lingering headaches, sensory disturbances, and/or problems with sleep, cognition, memory, mood, and coordination. In fact, many experts believe that undiagnosed traumatic brain injuries underlie the epidemic of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) we’re seeing in veterans today.
Although improvements in armor and battlefield medicine allow our troops to survive injuries that, just a generation ago, would have been fatal, fewer strides have been made in the treatment of traumatic brain injuries. That’s why hyperbaric oxygen therapy should be the first-line treatment for anyone who sustains this type of brain damage.
Whitaker Wellness is one of 85 clinics involved in a study spearheaded by Paul Harch, MD, of Louisiana State University, that will evaluate the efficacy of this therapy in servicemen and women suffering with traumatic brain injuries or PTSD.
Off the Battlefield…
HBOT isn’t only for battlefield trauma. Have you or a loved one had a stroke? An accident involving the head or spinal cord? Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or another neurodegenerative disorder? Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a proven treatment for any type of brain injury or degeneration.
We’ve been using HBOT at Whitaker Wellness for 10 years now, and the results never cease to amaze me. Virginia, whose husband brought her to the clinic from Colorado after a stroke, made such great strides that she was able to resume driving—which she thought she’d given up forever. Vic, whose stroke was so severe that his wife was advised to put him in a nursing home, not only regained function but no longer needed a wheelchair.
Gerald’s Parkinson’s symptoms improved, and treatment staved off further deterioration for nearly two years. Denice, who has multiple sclerosis, reported tremendous increases in energy, strength, and coordination. Damien, a young man who was paralyzed from the neck down following a diving accident, made remarkable improvements with intense physical therapy and HBOT. When he left the clinic, he could take halting steps with the aid of a walker, and he was convinced he’d eventually walk on his own. And Greg, who had severe developmental and learning disabilities due to head trauma as a child, became more outgoing and less moody.
…And Beyond the Brain
The benefits of HBOT extend far beyond the brain. Improved circulation coupled with the bacteria-killing properties of oxygen make it an excellent therapy for slow-healing wounds, MRSA skin infections, necrotizing spider bites, severe burns, and diabetic ulcers (our country’s leading cause of non-traumatic amputations). Fred came to the clinic as a last resort after being told he would require amputation of his foot. With HBOT, he began to heal—much to the astonishment of his physician back home.
HBOT also reduces post-surgical recovery time and complications. Eleanor had a facelift just three months before her college reunion, despite her doctor’s warning that she would need more time to heal. After reading about HBOT in the newsletter, she underwent a course immediately after surgery. By the time her reunion rolled around, she had no bruising and just a little redness and swelling.
Spread the Word—To Soldiers and Others
As you can see, hyperbaric oxygen stands to benefit millions, both civilian and military. Yet, this unique therapy is largely ignored by conventional physicians—an oversight I’ve been writing about for a decade. It appears that the same bias exists among military physicians, as Thomas M. Fox explains in Special Operations Technology:
“Therapeutic hyperbaric oxygen was identified as definitive in addressing neurological abnormalities in the blast casualty in 1990 in a comprehensive textbook produced by the Office of the United States Army Surgeon General…. The time is now to set aside misconceptions and preconceptions…. It is time to train today’s physicians on a treatment option that can address the patients under their care and avoid long-term neurological disabilities and costs. There are over 100 years of studies and investigations supporting the use of hyperbarics…”
Folks, veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars deserve our support. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is one way we can help them.
- If you know any veterans who would be interested in participating in a study to evaluate the effectiveness of HBOT for soldiers suffering with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder, please direct them to Dr. Harch at (504) 309-4948 or hbot.com.
- If you’re interested in learning more about receiving HBOT treatment at Whitaker Wellness, call (866) 944-8253.
- Fox, TM. Hyperbarics. Special Operations Technology. 2008 June/July;6(5):39–41.
Modified from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healing, click here.