Approximately 339,462 service members have been diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury. One in three service members returns home experiencing severe Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) symptoms. And currently, 5.3 million Americans are living with a long-term disability as a result of TBI. The symptoms of TBI include irritability, depression, insomnia, anxiety as well as other cognitive and co-morbidity issues. If left untreated, TBI/PTS can and usually result in the breakdown of family relationships as well as difficulties at work.
Andrew Marr comes from a military family. He wanted to be an NFL player, but a promising college career ended in injury and then 9/11 changed the world, as he knew it. Andrew decided to give the Army his athletic ability and he became a member of the coveted Green Berets, specializing in the forced entry of terrorist enclaves using explosives.
“You accept those risks and you make the commitment ahead of time for your team and to everybody else. I’m going to do what I need to do when the time comes to make sure these guys get home and we finish our mission,” Andrew Marr, Army Green Beret (ret) said, along with his brother, Adam Marr, a combat Army Apache pilot.
After three combat tours, Andrew was medically retired from the Army. However, this warrior had no idea that the fight for his life would unfold on the safety of US soil. Repeated overpressure caused by explosive blast waves had damaged his brain causing Traumatic Brain Injury. TBI progressively affected Andrew’s life to the point he could not remember what he was saying mid-sentence or where he lived when he was driving home.
“I’m having all these new problems that haven’t happened before. And instead of asking good questions, instead of doing a detailed history analysis on the person, they (doctors) say, okay you’re having behavioral problems and bouts of depression, let’s give you an anti-depressant and let’s try an anti-anxiety pill. It doesn’t fix the underlying condition it just masks the underlying symptom,” Marr explained.
(Watch the entire 30-minute unedited interview here.)
Logically, Andrew thought a visit to the top military TBI center would zero in on the underlying issues and help wean him off the six medications his military doctors prescribed.
The National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE), located in Bethesda, Maryland is billed as the military’s premier TBI outpatient program. Warriors admitted to the four-week program are treated for TBI as well as other psychological health conditions. The program is described as “a team of providers working with patients and their families to create a tailored treatment plan that focuses on the mind, body, and spirit. Patients play an active role in creating a plan of action to increase resilience and wellbeing, learning the skills they need to self-manage their symptoms in the long-term,” NICoE says. The facility also states it takes service members who haven’t responded to traditional treatment at their home bases.
By the time Andrew left the nation’s premier TBI treatment facility he wasn’t weaned from the six medications, instead they added seven more mind-altering drugs and he was told, “this was his new life.”
Unfortunately, Andrew’s life got much worse, the husband and father of four added alcohol to his psychotropic drug cocktail. He considered suicide, he slept with a loaded gun under his pillow and his wife was pregnant with his fifth child.
“My low point was waking up one day finding myself on 13 medications, being an alcoholic. My wife was nine months pregnant with our fifth child and her request of me was to ask if I could keep my drinking under control for the day, in case she went into labor so she wouldn’t have to drive herself to the hospital,” he elucidated.
After his “ah ha” moment, Andrew, along with his younger brother Adam, embarked on a tedious research path to find another medical method to alleviate the TBI symptoms and return to being the father and husband his family needed. They found Dr. Mark Gordon who specialized in neurology and successfully treated 1,200 patients suffering TBI/PTS using hormone replacement/regeneration therapy.
“The status quo isn’t working, the status quo is medication and psycho therapy, so we’re challenging the status quo by providing a superior alternative,” he said.
Andrew credits his family and Dr. Gordon for saving his life and ensuring he wasn’t one of the 22 military service members that kill themselves every day in America. “Death came calling at our doorstep and we said no, get back.”
Once Andrew settled on Millennium Health Centers, where Dr. Gordon implements and monitors brain hormone replacement treatments, he felt immediate results. “The results were nearly instantaneous. I thought that if this was a placebo, I want to take it the rest of my life!”
The individualized treatment centers on the replenishment of brain hormones called neurosteriods. “Once these are lost, the brain’s ability for rational thought, cognition, creativity, understanding and love are curtailed,” Dr. Gordon explained.
After a battery of blood tests, Andrew discussed the results with the Gordon and embarked on his neurosteriod replacement treatment. Gordon said of his 1,200 cases, a typical TBI/PTS patient should see marked results within 2-4 weeks.
Unfortunately, the Departments of Defense and the Veteran Affairs do not endorse or support the brain hormone treatment program. Many doctors are stuck in the 20th century thinking that synthetic drugs can provide a cure, Andrew says. While it may be a relatively new therapy, Gordon said the research has been around for a couple of decades.
Meanwhile, veterans continue to commit suicide at an alarming rate while taking prescription drugs that include side effect like, “thoughts of suicide, violent outbursts or bouts of depression.”
“People’s natural instinct is to explain military suicide by the war-is-hell theory of the world,” according to Michael Schoenbaum, an epidemiologist and military suicide expert at the National Institute of Mental Health. “But it is more complicated.” The Department of Veterans Affairs analysis of death records confirms that at least 22 service members commit suicide each day.
With science on their side, the Marr brothers’ Warrior Angels Foundation has set about bringing awareness to the general public, but to veterans in particular. “I raised my hand and said I found a way out,” Andrew bluntly said. With the help of his brother, the foundation hopes to change the way the military thinks about treatment by providing a “plethora” of research to the DOD/VA standards of care.
It doesn’t help the reputations of veterans’ organizations when J. Thomas Burch, a Veteran’s Affairs attorney, has been caught purportedly running a shady VA charity. His veteran charity raised more than $29 million in the past four years, yet it gave a measly 2 percent to veterans. “It’s a zero-star organization and you can’t go lower than that,” Michael Thatcher, Charity Navigator’s CEO said. “They don’t have an independent board of directors, they actually don’t even have a comprehensive board of directors — only three members on the board at this point in time and some of them are family. So one can say, is this representative of an independent board? It’s not.”
Unlike many charities that keep a majority of the donations to promote the charity, Warrior Angel’s donates more than 80 percent of the funds raised to veterans so they can receive the treatment from the Millennium Health Centers. An added selling point is the treatment costs $5,000 per patient, nearly one-third less than the VA’s regimen.
Taking the first step always seems daunting, but Andrew said the website makes the process much easier. Potential candidates simply fill out a questionnaire and with the help of a former Green Beret, and Warrior Angels will come to them using 21st Century technology!
Military leaders use words like courage, honor, valor, brothers and teamwork to describe their role within the military, it’s clear that creed served Andrew well. Now that he has recovered, Andrew’s new mission is to help his fellow brothers in arms, even if it means fighting the DOD/VA bureaucracy every day for the rest of his life.
Tune in next week for part two of the three part series on the hormone therapy treatment from Dr. Gordon’s perspective.
Just a note to readers: while this is promising new research, DO NOT stop or change your daily prescription regimen without consulting a physician.