Steagall Study Shows Benefits of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Jay Steagall (R-Yukon), House chair of the House and Senate Veterans Caucus, held an interim study Tuesday to examine the benefits of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) as a way to significantly improve the quality of life for veterans and other Oklahomans.
The study took place at the state Capitol before the House Health Services and Long-Term Care Committee.
“This therapy has been beneficial in treating issues such as the many forms of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) – including concussions, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), mental illness, the reduction of dependency on anti-depressants and opioids, and much more,” Steagall said. “This allowed us to further examine the issues surrounding this treatment so we can better meet the needs of Oklahomans including our veterans, our teenagers who suffer sports injuries and many others who currently suffer from debilitating illness or disease.
“We are closely monitoring other states in their efforts to make this type of therapy more available to those who can benefit from it.”
Steagall, a retired member of the U.S. Air Force Reserves, opened the study with a presentation about why Oklahoma needs to address the TBI/PTSD issue. Steagall spent 22 years in the military and has been deployed nine times. He served the country as a senior KC-135 pilot in the 465th Air Refueling Squadron, Tinker Air Force Base, U.S. Air Force Reserves, and retired this spring with the rank of Major.
He said thankfully he returned home from each of his nine deployments unharmed, but many of his brothers and sisters in arms were not so blessed. Many returned home with noticeable physical or emotional injuries or both, which left untreated, lead to a greatly reduced quality of life and a higher risk of suicide. He told the committee of the many veterans and other active-duty military members he’s met who suffered from either TBI or PTSD or other physical or mental conditions who have benefitted from HBOT.
Kris Morgan, a retired senior airman from the Air Force, discussed his experience pre- and post-HBOT after suffering a TBI while deployed in the Middle East and PTSD after volunteering to help after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the May 3, 1999, tornado. Morgan was medically retired as a result of injuries on his deployment and said he’s suffered migraines and seizures. He testified that as a result of his suffering and his consequent inability to hold employment, he sincerely considered suicide. He said he is convinced that HBOT healed his brain bleeds, vastly improving his health.
Caleb Freeman, an Oklahoma teenager who was in a horrific auto accident but who has miraculously recovered, addressed committee members and attendees at the meeting to share his testimony of the benefits of the therapy in his recovery.
Derek Dennis, a former college football player and current high school football coach, gave a personal family football history detailing his experience with HBOT.
“HBOT changed my life,” Dennis said.
He said he’s struggled with irritability, insomnia, fits of rage, depression and even thoughts of suicide much of his adult life. He said he thought he was just dealing with stress but later discovered his symptoms were the result of concussions suffered playing football. He said HBOT has improved his impulse control and stabilized his mood. He said he now has a healthier relationship with his wife and children. He spoke of the need for greater insurance coverage of the therapy and greater support from the medical community.
Dr. Alfred Johnson discussed why HBOT is beneficial to the brain, showing a timeline of concussions and explaining how the therapy helps heal the body’s tissues. He said 80 percent of the veterans treated with this therapy were able to regain employment and return to functional life after 80 hours of treatment. Dr. Johnson and Paul Conrady, a hyperbaric chamber operator with Oklahoma Oasis in Edmond, also discussed tools to measure recovery in those who have suffered concussions and other injuries including phone apps that show baseline brain function vs. post-injury that can be examined by medical professionals to determine if treatment is needed. They also discussed the cost savings experienced with this therapy vs. other traditional measures.
Following the interim study, legislators were invited to Oklahoma Oasis HBOT in Edmond for a hands-on look at HBOT.