Many of those treated are highly decorated Green Berets and Navy Seals who served multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan
FREEPORT, Bahamas, April 3, 2019 — Twenty-four U.S. military veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury (TBI) have received stem cell therapy at Okyanos Center for Regenerative Medicine under a special initiative designed to improve TBI outcomes, reduce pain and aid in healing orthopedic injuries. The veterans are providing pre-and post-treatment data as part of Okyanos’ ongoing efforts to track the therapeutic benefits of adipose-derived stem cells and improve outcomes.
The 10-month program began last Spring in Freeport, Bahamas with the first group of veterans being treated by Dr. Matt Stiebel, a noted orthopedic surgeon based in South Florida. Dr. Stiebel is a treating physician at Okyanos. “All of us at Okyanos deeply appreciate our veterans. It is a privilege and an honor to give back something, in even a small way, for those that serve and sacrifice for our country. Moving forward, the data collection from this initiative will allow us, and the first veterans treated, to help even more patients with traumatic brain injuries in the future.”
The medical team includes Dr. Michael Price, who practices in southern California and has a specialty in treating back pain. During treatment weeks, the veterans traveled in small groups to Freeport with support from the non-profit organization, Time For A Hero (T4H). T4H worked with the Okyanos’ nurses and doctors to identify veterans with medically diagnosed TBIs. Because of their injuries, the vets reported headaches, difficulty concentrating, short-term memory loss, sleep issues, mood disorders and chronic pain. Many of the vets are highly decorated Special Forces Navy Seals and Green Beret soldiers who served multiple deployments. Okyanos’ services were provided at cost. The initiative was generously funded by The Advancement of Cellular Therapy Foundation, a Bahamian charitable foundation.
“We have identified symptoms in the veterans that have resulted from traumatic brain injury and targeted those symptoms with enzyme-derived, adult stem cell therapy,” explained Dr. Price. “By using regenerative cells from the patient’s own fat, the results have exceeded even my own expectations for patient improvement.”
T4H Founder Gregg Phillips had high praise for the Okyanos staff and facility. “We are truly grateful to the medical team at Okyanos for their tremendous work in bringing much needed healing and hope to our veterans and their families. It’s been one of the most gratifying experiences of my life to travel with them to Okyanos and to share this experience.”
The veterans were treated with their own (autologous) stem cells taken from their own fat (adipose tissue), through a simple liposuction procedure, eliminating any risk of cell rejection. To treat their TBI, the vets were given an intravenous infusion of mannitol, a sugar, which opens the blood brain barrier. It was followed by an IV infusion of their stem cells that lasted 30-45 minutes and allowed the cells and the factors they secrete access to the brain. In addition, direct injections of stem cells were administered to specific joints to treat orthopedic problems.
Dr. Bart Rademaker is a board-certified plastic surgeon who performed the liposuction procedures. “These veterans are a remarkable group of individuals. They endured so much on the battlefield only to return home and face a different kind of battle, one with physical and emotional wounds. Through stem cell therapy, we’re giving them the potential to regain their health and enjoy a more normal life.”
Gretchen Dezelick, Director of Nursing and Clinical Administration, said she and her medical staff found it especially gratifying to care for the veterans throughout their treatment. “It’s been such an inspiration to all of us to get to know these men and their families. We are always thrilled when a patient has a positive outcome, but with this group, it’s been especially meaningful.”
Dan Cerrillo spent more than 13 years as a U.S. Navy SEAL and saw multiple combat assignments in Iraq and Afghanistan. He suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2003 and sustained severe injuries to his hip, back and shoulders during combat.
“I had surgeries to repair the damage, and for the most part I recovered well, although I was always in uncomfortable, but manageable pain. However, in the last two years, the pain started to get the best of me and I could feel myself losing cognitive motor skills as well as the ability to concentrate. The most damaging effect was the fact that I could no longer read or answer emails without great frustration and pain in my head.”
Cerrillo traveled from his home in the greater Seattle-area for stem cell treatment at Okyanos in mid-January. “It’s been almost two months since my treatment and all I can say is the effects have been miraculous. My knee pain is almost gone, my hip pain is almost unnoticeable, and my shoulders feel amazing. The greatest effect for me has been the ability to get back behind my computer and work for hours with no headaches or loss of concentration or irritability. My sleep is incredible and for the first time in years I’ve slept longer than two hours per night.”
Another veteran, Ike Atlas, served as a combat engineer and joined the Special Forces after 9-11. He says his head was “rocked a few times” from heavy explosives breaching. A truck accident during a night mission in Afghanistan permanently injured his back. Ike received stem cell therapy at Okyanos last October. “It was amazing how the stem cells attacked the inflammation in my body right away. The relief was there immediately.”
Ike has noticed some unexpected improvements. “Oddly enough, I think my hearing has gotten better. I haven’t had to wear my hearing aids since the procedure. Normally, I’d wear them a couple of days a week, but I haven’t needed them. The tinnitus I have is also reduced.”
Over the next 12 months, the Okyanos medical team will continue to track the veterans’ progress, collecting both objective and subjective data.
ABOUT TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is often called the ‘signature wound’ of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. It occurs when a sudden trauma or head injury disrupts the function of the brain. Common causes of TBI include damage from explosive devices, heavy weaponry, falls, and vehicle or motorcycle accidents. Many veterans returning home from tours report multiple health problems. The number of veterans who have experienced traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts have risen sharply in recent years. The Department of Defense and the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center estimate that 22 percent of all combat casualties from these conflicts are brain injuries, compared to 12 percent of Vietnam related combat casualties. Sixty to eighty percent of soldiers who have other blast injuries may also have traumatic brain injuries.
ABOUT OKYANOS CENTER FOR REGENERATIVE MEDICINE (OH – KEY – AH – NOS)
A state-of-the art regenerative medicine center delivering cutting edge therapies for chronic conditions, Okyanos is a leading adult stem cell therapy provider with world class physicians and staff. Okyanos helps people with chronic, degenerative diseases including neurologic, orthopedic, autoimmune and urologic conditions return to a more normal life through a treatment approach using fat-derived stem cells. Based in Freeport, Grand Bahama, Okyanos is licensed under the Bahamas Stem Cell Therapy and Research Act. The literary name Okyanos, the Greek god of the river Okeanos, symbolizes restoration of blood flow. Learn more at www.okyanos.com.