Because of the skills, training, advanced equipment and, often most importantly, heroic actions of so many other men and women serving in war zones, 92 percent of those service members injured in combat today are surviving even the most severe wounds and injuries. It is the highest percentage in the history of warfare.
In the battle to restore to the highest level possible their quality of life and reintegrate them back into society, we have not been nearly so successful. Current events have offered us a couple of stark reminders of these shortfalls. The first is the release of Clint Eastwood’s powerful new film, “American Sniper,” and its account of the physical and psychological cost paid by our warriors on the front lines, mounting battle scars not necessarily seen by the naked eye.
The next is the advance release this week of a new, shocking analysis to be published in the Annals of Epidemiology that puts a definitively more scientific number to the suicide rate since the start of the recent wars – 29.5 per 100,000 veterans. That is roughly 50 percent higher than the rate among other civilians with similar demographic characteristics. Among veterans in the current study, there was one suicide a day, with the rates highest during a veteran’s first three years out of the military.
Along with the higher rate of survival among military personnel comes an elevated need for finding new ways of managing acute and chronic pain associated with war-injured troops. It is identified by the Department of Veterans Affairs as the most common medical problem in veterans returning over the past decade.
In May 2010, a task force formed by the Army surgeon general issued a report suggesting the military needed a more holistic, multidisciplinary approach to pain management, including complementary and alternative medicine.
The VA and National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine announced in September that they were dedicating $21.7 million toward research projects exploring non-drug approaches to managing pain and related health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, drug abuse and sleep issues, calling the development of non-drug options an urgent public health imperative. Among the innovative projects in development is research testing the feasibility of a morning bright light treatment to reduce and help manage chronic lower-back pain and improve PTSD symptoms, mood and sleep in veterans.
Not on the list as yet is hyperbaric oxygen therapy – hard to believe, considering that harnessing the power of oxygen’s healing properties has been done since the 17th century. Given that hyperbaric oxygen therapy delivers oxygen to every cell in the body, it is the definition of a holistic approach. It puts oxygen into oxygen-depleted tissue so these tissues can heal and is considered one of the lowest-risk medical treatments available. It has also been shown to add healing power to existing therapies and make them more effective. It delivers treatment without causing discomfort or pain. It is inexpensive and readily available. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is said to be the only medical treatment that biologically repairs and regenerates tissue, including brain tissue. Its neurological benefits have long been recorded.
So what gives?
Medical science and surgery have made monumental strides in the effort to save lives in combat. We need to apply equal measure in healing, leaving no option unexplored in advancing the quality of the lives of those saved. How can mainstream medicine continue to turns its back on what could develop into an important complementary therapy?
Despite a lack of major grant funding, efforts to demonstrate the value of hyperbaric oxygen therapy to help U.S. military veterans occasionally happen.
In 2009, the Louisiana State University School of Medicine conducted a pilot trial of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in treating blast-induced chronic traumatic brain injury and PTSD. It represented the first organized body of information to suggest a possible new treatment for conditions that present the greatest challenge to military health care providers.
Symptoms and quality of life in 15 U.S. veterans with blast-induced chronic traumatic brain injury and PTSD were monitored an average of three years after their injuries. All subjects reported symptomatic improvement in the 35-day study period of treatment using hyperbaric oxygen therapy. The participating veterans achieved substantial improvements in memory, concentration, executive function and quality of life and a reduction in headaches, concussion symptoms, depression and anxiety.
This therapeutic approach continues today, supported by private donations through the Oklahoma-based nonprofit Patriot Clinics. This organization has provided more than 6,000 treatments to veterans and others in need since January of last year. The clinic’s goal is to treat 5,000 Oklahoma veterans with hyperbaric oxygen therapy by the end of the year and to see other states follow suit by setting up their own Patriot Clinics network. If you’re interested in donating to support this important work, you can do so at HyperbaricMedicalFoundation.org.
Next week, in the second part of this look at hyperbaric oxygen therapy, I’ll look at the roots of the bias against this form of therapy and the reasons it will be up to us, the public at large, to elevate hyperbaric oxygen therapy to its proper place in the world of health care and to fully tap its potential.
Write to Chuck Norris with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook’s “Official Chuck Norris Page.” He blogs at < a href=”http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com”>ChuckNorrisNews.blogspot.com.
Chuck Norris battles for abandoned veterans
Fri, 23 Jan 2015 18:11:41 GMT