CULLMAN, Ala. – A growing number of Cullman area veterans who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are enjoying the benefits of the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) shot that offers them a chance to reset their brains, in a manner of speaking. Through Saving Forgotten Warriors’ 800 Club (named for the cost of the shot), in partnership with Cullman VFW Post 2214, more than 40 veterans have traveled to Maryland to receive the shot free of charge, and the response has been uniformly positive.
“The stellate ganglion is like a routing center for the nervous system and controls the impulse for ‘fight or flight’,” said a statement from Kristine Rae Olmsted, a research epidemiologist with RTI International, an independent nonprofit research institute. “Anesthetizing the ganglion blocks nerve impulses temporarily. We still don’t know how SGB works to improve PTSD symptoms, but now we know that it does.”
According to RTI International: “In the early 2010s, some military medical centers began offering patients with PTSD a procedure that had been used for decades to relieve pain. The procedure, called stellate ganglion block, or SGB, involves injecting a local anesthetic into the stellate ganglion. This group of nerve cells and nerves in the neck helps regulate the body’s ‘fight or flight’ mechanism. As more and more patients tried the stellate ganglion block, the reports seemed promising. But the medical community still needed evidence of its effectiveness. RTI in 2014 launched a randomized, controlled trial of SGB, and in fall 2019, we found that it is indeed effective.”
Col. Ken Brown, a Vietnam veteran and outspoken proponent of the SGB shot and the 800 Club, recently told The Tribune, “We have a whole line of local Cullman County veterans who have been on two or three or four combat tours in the last few years, and are being treated at the VA (Veterans Administration) with a bunch of anti-psychotic and anti-depression drugs and counseling that doesn’t seem to be doing them a whole lot of good. And they’ve seen a lot of things that none of us should have to see, and they’re having a very, very hard time living with it and adjusting to life- not just to civilian life, but to life: to be able to sleep all night, to be able to have normal relationships with their families, to be able to have normal relationships with their co-workers, and so on and so forth.
“Since last December when we found out about this new Stellate Ganglion Block shot treatment that’s available through a retired Navy SEAL doctor in Annapolis, Maryland, who was instrumental in perfecting the treatment, we’ve sent- we’ve managed to raise the funds and send- 44 local veterans, guys and girls, to get this PTSD shot, the SGB shot, for PTSD.
“We know for sure that we’ve saved four lives, four of the people of the 44 we’ve sent were suicidal and were planning on taking their lives. And we’ve had amazing success with all 44 of the veterans who have gone and gotten this procedure. Many of them are now getting off of those drugs and are sleeping all night, and are readjusting to life, dealing with the demons. And so this seems to be a very effective treatment for a lot of people out there that are having this problem.
“There are a lot of folks out there that are dealing with a lot of demons, and this treatment has been very successful, so far. So we- the Saving Forgotten Warriors organization and the Veterans of Foreign Wars- are working together on this. We’re each taking turns taking groups of veterans up there that need the help. We’re taking turns on going before civic community organizations, churches and so on, and presenting this program and asking for support. And hopefully, this example of the worst case, we can make into an example for the best case.”
First person testimonies
Robert Turner, a Marine Corps Vietnam vet, told the Cullman City Council in September, “I tell you, it’s the best thing that ever happened to me and my wife.”
Marine Corps Operation Iraqi Freedom vet Sean Schofield told the council, “When I got that shot, I felt as good as the day I got off the plane to go fight.”
Army National Guard Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran Bo Winfrey exclaimed, “Dude, it saved my life; it really did.”
An anonymous veteran said, “My kids call me ‘Dad 2.0’ and they’ll mess with me and try to get into an argument on purpose and when I go to get onto them, they say, ‘Well wow you have been done a little different,’ because normally I would be straight to the point and go, ‘Hey, stop that.’ The shot works. I feel like a new person. I’m calmer; I’m not worried about stuff. I’m still on my guard, you know? I didn’t lose my fight-or-flight response, but I just handle things differently. It was a big reset for me.”
Another described the moment the shot took effect, saying, “I really can’t put into words what it felt like, but if an angel were to come down from heaven and reach into my soul and just pull it up, that’d be the only way to describe the shot.”
Yet another said, “So, for my kids to see it, for my wife to see it, I’m able to feel like I love my wife more and I feel like I’m able to love my kids more. I’m spending more time with them. I’m not easily agitated by the small things that used to eat me up inside. I’m going to advocate for this shot as much as I possibly can. I do believe that if I can feel the way that I feel, then these other veterans deserve to feel the same way.”
Saving Forgotten Warriors Founder Jeremy Hogan said of one vet he took to Maryland early in the program, “Since Feb. 20 when he got the shot, he’s finally home. We got him to ‘come home.’ That’s huge. That’s what we want.”
Looking for more veterans
Brown told The Tribune in September, “We have a lot of veterans here in Cullman County, 7,000 veterans, and even the veterans’ organizations don’t know who they all are, because of the privacy act. So if we have veterans out there that are having a problem with PTSD and it’s affecting their families, jobs and so on, they need to get in touch with us at the VFW or Saving Forgotten Warriors, and let us know about their situation, and we’ll try to get them in line to do this.
“It’s kind of a dual track deal: we need to have the veterans identify themselves to us so we can help them, and we have a line of veterans lined up to go to Annapolis to get the shot, and we’re going to continue to try to raise the funds to get them up there as best we can and as soon as we can.”
Get help, or give help
Representatives of Saving Forgotten Warriors and Cullman VFW Post 2214 will be at the Cullman County Veterans Day Celebration at Cullman Regional Airport this Saturday, and will be available to talk to veterans interested in the shot, or to others interested in making monetary contributions to help pay for veterans to go to Maryland for the procedure.
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