Wes Irvin is an advocate for hyperbaric oxygen therapy as a result of his own personal healthcare journey. He’s got a unique perspective on the challenges faced by the industry, thanks to his experience working “inside the beltway.” Wes has served in multiple capacities in Washington, D.C. over 20 years. From his start as a caseworker for his local Congressman Frank R. Wolf to his job as Vice President of Government Relations at the National Association of Manufacturers, Wes has dedicated the majority of his life to public service and advocacy. He assisted with rebuilding transportation at Ground Zero in New York City as well as rebuilding the City of New Orleans transportation system. Additionally, he has helped move forward multiple mega transportation projects around the country and advocated for our nation’s small, medium and large manufacturers to ensure they could expand facilities and create jobs.
Wes refers to himself now as an “evolving survivor” as a result of his own multi-year health journey in which hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) played in important part. He lives in Annapolis, MD where he continues his work as an advocate for the disabled, focusing his volunteer time on emotional wellness issues. I asked him to tell us a little about his story and a recently passed bill on Veteran’s health. You can connect with Wes here.
Hyperbaric oxygen has saved my life and ensured I have an ongoing quality of life. Without HBOT, I doubt I would be alive, although I continue to face physical and emotional challenges due to an aggressive flesh-eating bacteria that destroyed my entire abdominal wall eight years ago. To date, I have had over 65 surgeries in addition to multiple other medical procedures.
I would never compare my journey to any of the brave veterans who fought for our country. However, I can at least relate to the challenges faced by wounded veterans thanks to my own personal battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the complex surgical journey that landed me in Intensive Care Units for months on end, as well as spending a lot of time on a ventilator. That journey is how I learned firsthand about the lifesaving power of HBOT.
This past February I started HBOT again for wounds that were refusing to heal. Following weeks of daily treatments, I found an additional benefit to HBOT as it started to calm my sympathetic nervous system while reducing the daily effects of my PTSD. After noting an improvement in my non-physical symptoms, I researched the issue and learned of efforts in Congress to ensure that our veterans have immediate access to HBOT for PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
Having served in multiple capacities in Washington, D.C., I began a mini advocacy campaign to push passage of the PTSD and TBI Treatment Act. Those bills still languish in committees. However, the Senate thankfully included language in the Major Scott Hannon Mental Health bill mandating that the Department of Veterans Affairs immediately enter into studies with the private sector to determine the usefulness of HBOT for veterans. I understand the need for studies, but as a survivor, I am worried about how we save lives today. Each day we lose way too many veterans to suicide. It’s my personal opinion that HBOT should be available to veterans now as a treatment for PTSD and TBI.
This week, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs passed out of its committee a significant emotional wellness package for veterans. As early as next week, it looks as if the House will consider both the COMPACT Act (Comprehensive Prevention, Access to Care and Treatment) and the Senate’s Major Scott Hannon Mental Health bill. As the Senate and House finalize these bills, it is my hope that immediate access to Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy can be strengthened and assured.
As someone who has been in D.C. a long time, I know for a fact that if we reach out to Congress immediately, there remains an opportunity to strengthen the Senate’s language for HBOT by giving veterans immediate access. Therefore, I ask for your help. Please text “HBOT” to 52886 and urge Congress to strengthen access to HBOT for those with PTSD and TBI. Time is running out on these bills and veterans deserve this modality today, not months or years from now.