Local doctor to offer new study for vets suffering from PTSD

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wwltv.com

Posted on October 18, 2013 at 5:25 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 18 at 5:41 PM

Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
Email: mfarris@wwltv.com | Twitter: @megfarriswwl

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury may soon have relief from their symptoms.

Dr. Paul Harch, a leader in hyperbaric medicine, claims hyperbaric oxygen therapy may substantially improve TBI and PTSD symptoms.

James Ciconne was an E4 in the Army and was diagnosed with PTSD after spending a year in Iraq. The illness caused him to take his own life last year.

"He did say to me, 'Mom, I've done terrible things. I've done terrible things,' and you can see the pain in his face," Tanya Ciconne said.

His father, Bill Ciconne, remembers the last three text messages he got from his son.

"I love you, thank you for raising me, and goodbye," Bill said his son texted. "I will never accept my son not being here."

Bill Ciconne supports Dr. Harch's research.

There are 22 suicides in the military every day. Dr. Harch said this treatment could help prevent these kind of suicides.

Dr. Harch is chief of hyperbaric oxygen medicine at LSU Health Sciences Center. He said he's seen the positive changes after treatment in veterans with brain trauma. He remembers the words of one.

"To our great surprise, after 25 treatments he came and said to me, 'My PTSD is gone,'" Harch said.

The FDA is reviewing Dr. Harch's application for a clinical trial using veterans with mild TBI post-concussion syndrome and possibly PTSD. He hopes the data will prove to the military that the oxygen chamber, they already use to heal divers, can also be used to treat the injured brains of veterans. And he hopes one day hyperbaric oxygen will be approved to treat brain tissue as it is for other body injuries.

"It acts as a signal to our 8,101 genes in our DNA and it turns on growth and repair hormones," said Dr. Harch.

Dr. Harch isn't waiting to get military members to him. Mercy Medical Airlift, a non-profit group, is stepping in to help.

The Ciconnes wish their son had known about the treatment.

On Nov. 11, the Ciconnes are sponsoring a free movie night at Cinema Cafe to bring awareness to suicide prevention and PTSD treatment.

The Department of Defense, the Veteran's Administration, and the National Institute of Mental Health recently pledged $100 million for further PTSD and TBI research and treatment, impacting more than 550,000 brain injured veterans.

Click here for more information on hyperbaric oxygen treatment.

For more information about Mercy Medical Airlift, call 1-800-296-1217.

Editors Note: This story was originally reported by reporter/anchor Lucy Bustamante of WVEC, our sister station in Virginia Beach. Medical reporter Meg Farris updated the recent developments with Dr. Paul Harch.

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