Speidel’s recovery shows hyperbaric oxygen therapy should be used for veterans

By Gen. James Bauerle

The next Indiana General Assembly and Gov.-elect Eric Holcomb’s administration begin their next month. Investments will be prioritized and probably limited based upon predicted tax revenue. One investment that should make the list is the medical care of our veterans.

Traumatic brain injury/post traumatic stress injury (TBI-PTS) is the most significant issue facing veterans today, and thousands of Hoosiers suffer from it. The current Veterans Administration care is not working. How can we change this?

Nothing supersedes evidence, good data and science. We need $2 million in funding for a world-class hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) treatment program, conducted in existing Indiana clinics. The Indiana Veteran Recovery Plan, a clinical trial, treats and gathers scientific data so the treatment can become a standard of care for everyone. The military and Veterans Coalition of Indiana is trying to get the Indiana to initiate this statewide clinical trial.

Ironically, the Indiana “poster child” for HBOT is Josh Speidel, a non-veteran. He was an outstanding basketball player at Columbus North High School a few years ago, but he was in a terrible car wreck and sustained an extensive traumatic brain injury.

Several doctors told his parents to plan on sending Josh to a long-term care facility for the rest of his life, as his “broken brain” was “repaired” as good as it was going to get. Josh might improve a little bit, but it could take up to five years.

His mother did not accept this and investigated alternative medical treatments. She discovered Carmel’s Wellness Origin. There Josh had more than 50 one-hour HBOT treatments and improved dramatically. Josh also received craniosacral massage, occupational therapy, physical therapy and cognitive rehabilitation training at the same time.

The end results: Josh improved so much that he started school at the University of Vermont this past fall and participates with the basketball team in training and attends the varsity team’s games. Josh is vastly improved and doing fine in college, and will not be going to a facility for the mentally diminished.

Seventeen years ago, Dr. Paul G. Harch discovered that HBOT conducted at 1.5 atmospheres (HBOT 1.5) of pressure could repair a chronic traumatic brain injury. Harch, director of the Hyperbaric Medicine Fellowship at Louisiana State University’s School of Medicine, has used the therapy on more than 700 patients and taught the technique to hundreds of doctors.

In 2008, Harch applied HBOT 1.5 to five current war combat veterans who have traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from concussive blasts. So far, all have significant recovery.

Other studies suggest that there is sufficient evidence to support the use of HBOT in mild traumatic brain injury/persistent post-concussive syndrome. Reported positive outcomes and the durability of those outcomes have been demonstrated at six months post-HBOT. Even more convincing, the battle-tested Israeli military uses HBOT as the primary means of treating their most precious asset — their wounded soldiers. We don’t!

Parts of Speidel’s brain were so damaged they didn’t survive; however, other parts of his brain are now repaired and healing continues. Unfortunately, he still has some limitations that include short-term memory issues and a tremor on his right side. Josh may never get back to 100 percent in all areas, but there is hope. His “broken brain” can and will continue to heal and grow better thanks to HBOT.

Speidel’s treatments were not covered by insurance; they were paid for by hundreds of worldwide donations. There are thousands of other people just like him out there suffering silently with no donations to cover their expense. They are our veterans, and they deserve our care.

An Indiana Veterans Recovery bill could help hundreds of veterans, and eventually the evidence could help make this life-saving treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and a standard of care for everyone in Indiana and across the nation. Insurance would then cover this treatment, and perhaps the federal VA would use it as well. Indiana can and should be the first — leading the way.

Gen. James Bauerle (retired) is a Vietnam and Desert Storm veteran. He volunteers as an advocate for our military, veterans and their families in Indiana with The Military Veterans Coalition of Indiana. Send comments to editorial@therepublic.com.