Clearing Our Heads
Jan 06, 2017 03:26PM ● Published by Ashley Pape
By Lori Stacy
The waiting room at Cerebrum Health Center, a leading integrative medical facility for brain health treatment and rehabilitation, is not unlike most other doctor’s office waiting areas. There are a few comfortable seating areas and plenty of magazines to read while you wait.
But there’s another waiting room, just beyond the front, which is reserved for veterans seeking treatment for traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In this waiting room, lined with comfortable leather chairs, the walls are filled with handwritten sentiments, testimonials and words of encouragement from the many veterans who have come through these doors. There, in addition to seeing “Semper Fi” scrawled on the walls, you see notes such as one that says, “Never above you, never below you, always beside you,” or one that lauds, “Before brain treatment, Zac sucked at life. After treatment… not as much.”
Between 11 to 20 percent of veterans will experience PTSD, according to the National Center for PTSD. Since there are about 2.7 million veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the numbers of those with PTSD are significant. And those numbers don’t reflect veterans of the Vietnam War, an estimated 15 percent of whom were still afflicted with the disorder more than a decade after the war ended. For these veterans, Cerebrum hopes to help at its innovative center. And they treat veterans free of charge.
“We want to give loving service to people who have helped us,” says Dr. Cagan Randall, one of the clinicians at Cerebrum. The list of symptoms associated with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder is staggering, and Randall has seen enough of these patients to be able to recount the lengthy list by heart.
“Sleeplessness, rage, emotional trauma, problems concentrating, problems with comprehension, balance and coordination issues, confusion and having less of an ability to heal any more,” he says. Some, he notes, are even afflicted with hormonal deficiencies, meaning, “you’ll see a 20-year-old in the same hormonal stage as an 80-year-old.”
A High-Profile Journey to Recovery
Randall specializes in Functional Neurology (FN) and the treatment of traumatic brain injuries, Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia and sports- and PTSD-related concussions. Which is how he came to be at the other end of a call that changed the course of his life and changed the life of Marcus Luttrell.
If the name Marcus Luttrell doesn’t ring a bell at first, you will almost certainly recall his story—one immortalized in a book and on the big screen. Luttrell was a United States Navy SEAL who, in 2005, was the lone survivor of an attack against the Taliban in which three members of his SEAL team were attacked and killed, as well as all on board a SEAL Team 10 helicopter sent in to rescue him.
After being medically discharged from the Navy in 2007, Luttrell wrote the bestseller, Lone Survivor about the experience. The book was adapted into a 2013 film starring Mark Wahlberg as Luttrell.
While the book and the movie brought him success and, perhaps, fame, it would be naive to assume that someone who experienced what Luttrell went through would come home unscathed.
And that’s why one day Randall received a call from former Texas governor Rick Perry, who had heard about Randall and the center through another vet who had visited Cerebrum. Since his days as governor, Perry, a former Air Force pilot, has been an outspoken advocate for veterans’ rights and is a close friend of Luttrell. Governor Perry asked Randall if he had ever heard of Marcus Luttrell.
“I didn’t know him,” Randall admits. “I lead a pretty boring life.”
Through Perry’s call, Luttrell came into the center to meet with Randall and begin Cerebrum’s program. As with other patients, Luttrell was given a series of tests and health exams to assess his condition and determine and begin his individualized plan of treatment.
“We helped him sleep; got him out of pain,” says Randall. “Within three days, he was sleeping eight hours again. And we didn’t use sleep medications.”
Now, Luttrell and Randall have become good friends, and Luttrell has become both a proponent of the program and of helping other veterans, many of whom come home from combat having suffered some form of traumatic brain injury, which makes it difficult to function normally, to sleep, to be pain free, to have their health.
“Once my head got fixed, everything else kind of fell in line,” Luttrell says. The product, he says, “speaks for itself.”
“It all stems from the brain injury, so if you go in and fix the brain, the other stuff goes away,” says Luttrell.
Now, Luttrell is involved with the center’s InvisibleVet program, helping raise awareness for vets with traumatic brain injuries.
“For whatever reason, he was not taken, and he has to go forward,” says Randall. “And now, I’ve never seen anyone more dedicated to a cause than him,” he says of Luttrell’s commitment to helping veterans. “He has the tenacity to never quit, whether it’s for his own recovery or helping some of his brothers who have been affected with traumatic brain injury.”
Specialized Healing for the Whole Person
Cerebrum’s reach extends beyond veterans dealing with traumatic brain injuries and PTSD. “Yes, we treat vets, but we also treat autism, dyslexia, ADHD, dementia and stroke patients who have lost functional ability,” says Jimmy Matthews, president and CEO of the company.
“There are so many times people can’t find help with traditional medicine,” he says. And that’s where Cerebrum’s not-so-traditional methods come into play. The clinic provides holistic, innovative and individualized treatment programs with the goal of improving the quality of life for patients suffering from degeneration and injury of the brain and central nervous system.
Patients who come into Cerebrum go through three major tests to determine the extent of their brain damage or disorders. These tests provide the clinicians with a unique picture of each patient and determine the individualized treatment he or she will receive. “There is no blanket protocol,” says Randall. “Every patient is different and every patient needs a unique plan of treatment.”
One piece of equipment used for treatment by the center is the futuristic-looking OVARD (off vertical access rotation device), a chair that rotates 360 degrees and is used for vestibular rehabilitation by activating different parts of the brain.
“We focus on what we can do to activate specific parts of the brain,” says Dr. Paul Shrogin, Cerebrum’s director of operations. He explains that with some injuries, such as stroke, there is a permanent loss of neurons. But with other injuries sometimes groups of neurons simply change. “It’s our goal to properly rehab those systems,” he says.
Diet and nutrition also play a large part in a patient’s recovery plan. “It’s like the old adage, ‘garbage in, garbage out,’” says Randall. “While some people can burn carbohydrates, some cannot. And if you can’t burn carbs effectively, what you’re doing to your brain is creating inflammation. So we pay close attention to helping decrease inflammation through diet and nutrition.”
Changes to one’s diet and nutrition require a lifestyle change, not just a visit to the clinic, which has meant that Cerebrum not only assesses patients and devises a plan of action, but also follows up with patients after they leave, getting them back on track if needed.
With such a holistic
approach, it’s no wonder the center has attracted not just vets, but patients from
the world of sports, including Olympic athletes and stars from the NFL, MLB,
NHL and UFC. Sometimes, says Shrogin, patients come in just for physical maintenance.
“We’ve treated athletes because they’re having trouble focusing on the ball,
and we’ve had athletes come in prophylactically, for a tune-up,” he says.
The physicians have also
treated celebrities outside the world of sports. Talk-show host and pundit
Glenn Beck, who considers himself a friend of Luttrell, learned about the
center from Luttrell and visited it to treat a brain-related ailment that
traditional medicine was not healing. He says he went to Cerebrum “after
getting to a point where I really wasn’t able to work anymore.”
“When I first sat down and talked to the doctors they told me, ‘We want you to know they’re doing stuff here that’s very unconventional, very different, and a lot of people disagree with it,’” he says. But having previously seen 15 doctors, Beck was ready for something unconventional. The treatment worked. “In just a few short weeks, they put me back to where I needed to be,” he said at a recent fundraiser benefitting vets.
Now Beck is convinced that the center is just what America’s veterans need. Beck says he hopes the center is able to “get our veterans so they’re functioning again,” just as the center did for him and continues to do for others. “I’ve seen people without hope all of the sudden be revitalized again,” he says.
But while famous patients such as Beck and Luttrell talk about how the center has helped them and is helping our veterans, Randall is getting something in return as he sees patients go from hopeless to healed. In particular, Randall was impacted by his relationship with Luttrell. In the process of treating Luttrell, Randall became good friends with him. The two talk regularly, hang out and hunt together. Spending time together, Randall got to know Luttrell personally, and saw firsthand how he has not only been healed but also uplifted.
“He helped me become a better American, to know and love my country,” says Randall, fighting back emotions. “He taught me resilience. I’m a better dad because of him; I know how to love my wife better. I’m thankful every day that I know him. He helps me live my life at a higher level.”