FARGO — The Fargo VA Health Care System has been given the green light to offer hyperbaric oxygen therapy to veterans dealing with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries, a therapy many veterans say has given them relief when nothing else would.
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., announced at a roundtable discussion with veterans on Friday, Sept. 6, that the Fargo VA has been added to a short list of VA systems around the country where the Department of Veterans Affairs is studying the impact of hyperbarics. North Dakota joins locations in California, Texas, Oklahoma and Florida, Hoeven said.
Dr. Robert Bathurst of Fargo's Healing with Hyperbarics says he has seen veterans turn their lives around with the treatment, and for him, it is personal.
"I have two boys and they are both Navy Seals," he explained. "They have both been banged up, both with TBIs and I am so appreciative of the VA to give them a chance to heal."
Afghanistan veteran Sam Floberg has struggled with trauma from war for years. While serving with the North Dakota National Guard, an RPG from enemy forces critically injured Floberg and killed one of his fellow soldiers.
"I bled out and laid there unconscious for a half hour or so," he remembers. "For the last 13 years, I was overstimulated, I would just shut down."
Floberg lost his leg and for years has been dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury. He used prescription pills to mask the pain, and counseling didn't help.
"I tried talk therapy and group therapy and it just did not work," he said.
Now Floberg says he has found incredible relief from hyperbaric oxygen therapy available in Fargo.
"After the first treatment ... I felt more mentally clear. I wanted to participate in life again," he said.
Other veterans from around the region shared stories about how hyperbarics helped them get past traumatic experiences.
"I was wounded and had to lay there six hours with a collapsed lung," Moorhead resident and Purple Heart recipient Tyler Einarson remembers, explaining that he is now getting relief he never dreamed of.
"This is probably the best thing that has happened to veterans in God knows how long," he said.