Air Compassion for Veterans

A Salute to the ‘Hyperbaric Miracle’

By suzanne rhodes on October 28, 2013

By Christina Correa, Intern, Old Dominion University

by Christina Correa, Intern, Old Dominion University

Halos and Heros 2013-64 dr paul harchThat time of the year had come again for Mercy Medical Airlift (MMA) to pay tribute to our veterans and wounded warriors at the Seventh ‘Annual Halos and Heroes celebration on October 12. What better way to honor those who serve our nation than to shed light on what many soldiers have considered for years to be a hopeless situation.

The silent and devastating wounds known as TBI (traumatic brain injury) and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) have been taking a heavy toll on the military community for years. These conditions contribute significantly to the alarming suicide rate among veterans and active duty, estimated to be 23 lives lost every day. 

Dr. Paul Harch of New Orleans, the featured speaker, came ready to present his solution to TBI and PTSD: Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment, or HBOT, what many have been calling the “hyperbaric miracle.” He brought with him several patients who have been treated successfully. 

The event began with an earnest salute to our nation and those who have served. Members of the Landstown High School ROTC Color Guard led the Parading of the Colors, followed by the playing of the national anthem and a tribute to the U.S. troops who are currently POW (prisoners of war) and MIA (missing in action).

 Col. Steve Hambrecht, chairman of the Dave and John’s Remembrance Golf Charity in Newport News, presented a donation of the proceeds to benefit Angel Flight in the amount of $22,134. Hambrecht expressed his gratitude as he presented the oversized check to Edward Boyer, CEO and president of MMA, quoting Matthew 25:40: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these, so you did for me.” 

One of Angel Flight’s beloved pilots, Chip Hilborn, gave the invocation. Hilborn is recovering from an accident that caused him to lose his right leg while in the course of helping a stranded motorist. The audience of some 150 guests then enjoyed a barbecue buffet. 

After dinner, Jim Hooker, a Vietnam veteran and advocate for HBOT, introduced the program, entitled “The Veteran PTSD and TBI Tragedy.” Present at the banquet were five of Harch’s HBOT-treated patients: Mr. Dan Greathouse, Lt. Col. Al Burghard, Maj. Ben Richards, Capt. Matt Smotherman, and MSgt. Tim Hecker. Greathouse, Burghard and Richards all gave powerful testimonials of their success with the treatment, each calling it their own “hyperbaric miracle.” 

Each man had a remarkable story to tell of his journey to recovery with HBOT. Greathouse talked of his miraculous recovery after being diagnosed with severe mental illness and institutionalized; he has earned two advanced degrees since completing his HBOT treatments when he had once been told he would never improve. Burghard shared his story of recovering from a TBI due to a blast that caused him a fractured skull and vestibular damage seven years prior to treatment. Richards spoke after sharing a video of his road to recovery from TBI and PTSD after being attacked by a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2007. Each of these men had been told that they had no hope for recovery but all have overcome the odds since their treatment with Dr. Harch. 

“Dr. Harch gave me back my brain,” said Greathouse, as he emphasized just how life-changing HBOT is to a patient with brain injuries. Greathouse spoke with complete confidence in Harch and HBOT, calling it “the only brain injury repair the world has ever seen.” 

Dr. Harch took the stage after warm welcomes, immediately expressing gratitude to Boyer and the staff of Mercy Medical Airlift for the opportunity to speak and responding modestly to the praise he had been given. 

“This is not about me. I have been passed the baton and am running like hell with it,” said Harch. He considers himself blessed to have the opportunity to work with the treatment, saying, “I have a purpose in life: to bring the therapy to awareness.” 

While HBOT has been around for many years, being used to treat external wounds such as burns and non-healing wounds, the recent discovery of its success with brain injuries is groundbreaking. It heals by growing new tissue and stimulating the DNA to repair wounds. Its possibilities for healing wounds are seemingly endless, as Harch calls the treatment “for wounds of any location and of any duration.” 

Though the success on external wounds has been clear and undeniable, its success with “invisible wounds” such as brain injury remains under the radar simply because brain injuries are typically something that cannot be seen. Harch posed a simple question of understanding: it works every time and even with extremity wounds, so “why wouldn’t it work in the brain?” 

A video was shown of the progress of HBOT patient Curt Allen, Jr., a teen who suffered a severe brain injury from a car accident. Allen had been in a coma and in ICU for a time, and when he failed to show improvements or response to commands, his mother was told that there was nothing more to be done for him. 

When Harch began treating Allen, he could not even respond to the simple command to lift his head and had trouble even opening his eyes. After 80 treatments of HBOT, Allen was not only responding to every command, but also walking on his own. Because of the treatment, he now has the opportunity for an independent life and he works and lives on his own. 

With HBOT, Harch has given many who suffer from TBI the opportunity to regain their lives. 

“If you can do 40-80 treatments at 1.5 ATA, you will have improvements! And here’s the shocker: it works with PTSD.” 

Harch has been using a newly developed way of scanning the brain that determines the blood flow. While other scans show virtually no damage to the brain for many TBI patients, this type of scanning clearly reveals the injuries of the brain in those suffering from, not only TBI, but also PTSD.  While most doctors would consider a veteran with PTSD to have nothing more than psychological damage (both TBI and PTSD are “officially” classified as mental illness), Harch has proved that PTSD can actually be an injury that needs physical treatment. For this reason, Harch and his patients have begun using the term PTSI (post-traumatic stress injury). 

Harch and his patients desire to send a message of hope to the military and veteran community that there is treatment for TBI and PTSD. HBOT provides improvements every time for people with TBI and PTSD, and it was stated that “8 out of 14 who were treated no longer met the criteria for PTSD.” 

There is an alternative to the standard care that they receive, which Harch called “nothing but Band-Aids.” Instead of the endless combination of drugs that these people usually receive to “treat” their conditions that often have FDA Black Box warnings for suicide, the alternative must be offered to those in need. With the veteran suicide rate being so high, this is something that cannot be ignored.

“There is another 700,000 who need help,” said Dr. Harch. “We must spread the message of hope to this number.” 
 
To learn more about Dr. Harch and Hbot, visit www.Hbot.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. John Rhinehart

    March 2nd, 2015 at 04:46 am

    Christina Correa, Intern, Old Dominion University,
    Being an ODU alumni myself (1976), I was interested to see your article. Are you able to tell me the average cost per Hbot treatment and the cost of the equipment required?
    Thank you.
    John

    Reply »

    • suzanne rhodes

      March 3rd, 2015 at 06:37 pm

      Hi John,
      Christina no longer works for us, but I can respond to your question. If you live in the Tidewater area, there’s a clinic in Norfolk called the Renova Center. They have a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, and I think the cost is $175 per one-hour session. Dr. Harch is in New Orleans and I believe he’s still accepting qualifying patients to participate for free in an FDA-approved clinical trial. As for equipment, the clinics provide all of it. You can find out more by going to http://www.hbot.com or TheRenovaCenter.com. I hope this information is helpful. Thank you for writing. -Suzanne Rhodes, Director of Public Affairs

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