Hyperbaric oxygen chamber bill good move for veterans

Members of the United States military put their lives on the line to protect the country, its citizens and its ideals. For that, they deserve our thanks — and our support if they become injured.

Former Columbus North basketball star Josh Speidel is playing a role in an effort to help accomplish that.

Several state lawmakers are sponsoring legislation, Senate Bill 454, that would use a lottery scratch-off system to fund a trial assessing the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatments for veterans who have suffered traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A hyperbaric chamber increases the air pressure to three times greater than normal, allowing a person’s lungs to gather more oxygen than possible at normal pressure. A person’s blood carries this greater amount of oxygen throughout the body. That helps the body more effectively fight off bacteria, and stimulates the release of growth factors and stem cells — all of which promotes healing.

Speidel is viewed as a success story for hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatments, one of many rehabilitation programs he has utilized to improve.

Two years ago, at age 18, Speidel was severely injured in an auto accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury. He spent 16 days in a coma that doctors evaluated in the range of brain dead. After emerging from the coma, however, he received physical, occupational and speech therapy before his parents learned about hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatments.

Speidel has completed more than 60 such treatments, and his parents, David and Lisa, attended a Senate committee hearing Feb. 7 when Lisa testified that they believe the treatments have played an instrumental role in their son’s recovery.

Speidel’s recovery, spurred by his tenacity, has been remarkable. The young man relearned how to walk on his own and improved other motor skills. He achieved a sense of independence last fall by leaving home to attend the University of Vermont — where he has a basketball scholarship — to take classes, and he’s been working out with the team. Now he’s progressed to where he’s running full-on sprints, dribbling the length of the court, doing side shuffles while dribbling with his left hand and making left-handed layups. The left side of Speidel’s body had been most affected by the injury.

Although Josh Speidel never participated in a study about hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatments to measure the correlation to his recovery, it seems apparent that the therapy has played a role. The inspiration of his story should give hope for veterans.

The merits of Senate Bill 454 are worthwhile, and funding a trial to see if the therapy could help military veterans make greater strides in recovering from serious brain injuries and PTSD would be a good step toward greater medical support for those who have given much to defend the country.

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