RALEIGH, NC — Post-traumatic stress disorder and lack of care are two issues plaguing the veteran population. Now there is an option: hyperbaric oxygen therapy. The option became available after the state legislature designated funding for this purpose.
Some retirees from military service try their luck.
What do you want to know
- The state legislature has approved public funding for the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy to treat PTSD in veterans
- Sessions can last 90 minutes and are called “dives”
- Chip Haubenstein is a retired sailor with PTSD
- He served in the Gulf War
Malvin “Chip” Haubenstein is taking civilian life one day at a time. The retired sailor has a new diet.
“There’s no such thing as light duty,” Haubenstein said.
Her mission now is to arm her mind and body against post-traumatic stress disorder.
This is done in part thanks to its new HBO (hyperbaric oxygen therapy). The other part is to unlearn some of the habits and toughness mindsets that were instilled in him as a soldier.
“It’s like being a drill instructor. You’re here and it’s 12 degrees and you’re in short sleeves. You’re not cold. You are a model. You are infallible. Nothing bothers you. It was more or less like that when I came up through the ranks,” he said.
Haubenstein does not fight alone. The state assembly set aside $150,000 in public funding for veterans living with PTSD to use the HBOT program. When North Carolina Senate Bill 442 became law, it was designed to provide those who served their country with a better treatment option. Haubenstein took the opportunity.
“I used to get up in the morning and walk like a mummy to the bathroom. Now I can just get up and go to the bathroom and do whatever I need to do throughout the day,” Haubenstein said.
Haubenstein says he was diagnosed PTSD towards the end of his military career. He said his battle with the disease began during the Gulf War, during Operation Desert Storm.
“They were firing missiles at our keychains (forward operating bases) and everything. We were sitting in bunkers. Here I am sitting there a little upset myself, and [I’m] take care of [an] An 18 year old there. I had a young woman sitting right next to me. She had just turned 18 and was already there,” Haubenstein said.
The former gunnery master sergeant also suffered a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, on an aircraft carrier when the exhaust from a jet engine swept over him.
TBI can amplify her PTSD symptoms by causing mood swings and flashbacks of the incident.
“I got blown into the nets and my skull split open,” he said.
Extivata is the company that provides this therapy to veterans like Haubenstein.
Specialists like Elana Schertz oversee Haubenstein’s therapy. “We use it to heal. In Chip’s case, his brain,” Schertz said.
The nurse practitioner said breathing pure oxygen for up to 90 minutes at a time significantly reduced the side effects of both conditions.
“The amount of oxygen they breathe signals wound repair,” Schertz said.
The treatments, called dives, are done in a highly pressurized chamber. The experience is similar to scuba diving.
“The energy level is just ridiculous every time I go out. It’s a bit like being jostled and bouncing off walls. Like I just had three cups of coffee or something,” he said.
Schertz says this hyperbaric facility opened four years ago.
“People who come in with traumatic brain injury with post-concussive symptoms, like those like Chip for example and many others. They actually improve in terms of quality of life, processing speed, cognitive function, executive function, and their sleep improves dramatically,” she said.
Haubenstein said he experiences brain fog symptoms less often and sleeps better at night.
The 60-year-old has tried counseling in the past but always refused prescription drugs.
“Most of the military I’ve come in contact with in my time don’t want to take all these pills. It’s nothing but take a pill for this, take a pill for that, everything has a pill for It’s something that’s a natural way of healing,” he said.
After 30 years at the service of his country, he is now at the service of his own health.
“It’s one of those things that makes no less of a man or a woman to go and get the help you need, because it’s worth so much more than sitting around and drowning in your own grief,” a- he declared.
The Community Foundation of NC East is a non-profit organization designated as the financial custodian of the HBOT program.
Generations of warriors need to heal. Different wartime exposures are also correlated with an increased likelihood of PTSD. The National PTSD Center lists the percentages based on certain wars:
Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF): Approximately 11-20 out of 100 veterans (or between 11-20%) who served in OIF or OEF suffer from PTSD in any given year.
Gulf War (Desert Storm): Approximately 12 in 100 (or 12%) Gulf War veterans suffer from PTSD in any given year.
Vietnam War: About 15 in 100 (or 15%) Vietnam veterans were diagnosed with PTSD at the time of the last study in the late 1980s; the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS). It is estimated that approximately 30 out of 100 (or 30%) Vietnam veterans have suffered from PTSD in their lifetime.
“Some of them who thought about suicide don’t think about it anymore,” Schertz said.
The salary is $75 per session if you are in the military or a military spouse. It costs twice that amount for someone else. Certain conditions apply for insurance coverage.
Schertz said Exitivita is now tracking vets who started this therapy in March.
The medical professional said the benefits are not just for the patient.
“It saves some marriages, I’ve heard, and they go back into society and work,” she said.