Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer has launched a crowdsourced fundraising campaign to help other veterans receive an obscure post-traumatic stress disorder treatment that he says changed his life.
The 31-year-old Marine veteran launched the GoFundMe.com effort on July 9 to promote stellate ganglion block (SGB), a treatment that involves injections of a local anesthetic into the stellate ganglion, a group of nerves in the neck.
SGB is not a cure for PTSD, Meyer said, but added that the procedure has helped him cope with his own PTSD demons.
"It's not the end-all, be-all," Meyer told Military.com in an interview. "It's not going to cure PTSD, but what it can do is calm things down and give you a normal feeling to where you can start handling what you need to handle."
Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2011 for his actions during a six-hour battle that occurred on Sept. 8, 2009, in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. Meyer, 23 at the time of the award, is the second-youngest living Medal of Honor recipient.
During the incident, about 50 heavily armed enemy fighters ambushed a joint force of U.S. and Afghan troops, pinning down many friendly troops.
Riding in the exposed gunner's turret of a gun truck, Meyer and another Marine made several trips in and out of the besieged area under heavy fire, rescuing dozens of Afghan soldiers in the process, according to the award citation.
Meyer "killed a number of enemy fighters with the mounted machine guns and his rifle, some at near point-blank range," according to the citation, which said that his actions "directly supported the remaining U.S. personnel and Afghan soldiers fighting their way out of the ambush."
It wasn't until 2016 that Meyer said he realized he was suffering from severe PTSD.
"It really started getting me," he said, recalling "waking up in my own puke, on the floor."
"I didn't feel like I could move. ... I was having anxiety attacks ... terrible dreams," he said.
"I was like, 'This will never work.' And I went [and] did it, and the first time I got it -- I mean, it completely changed my life," he said.
The procedure is not covered by insurance or the Department of Veterans Affairs, Meyer said.
There have been studies on the effectiveness of SGB for PTSD, but so far the results have been inconclusive, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. While SGB has been available as a treatment for years, it rose in prominence last month when Meyer gave an interview to the CBS show "60 Minutes" about his personal experiences with it.
"In uncontrolled, unblinded, retrospective case series, SGB for PTSD had high rates of rapid clinical improvement in PTSD symptoms (70% to 75%). However, findings from the first randomized trial (RCT) of SGB for PTSD were inconclusive, neither confirming nor refuting findings from case series," the NCBI reported in 2017.
To Meyer, the effectiveness of SGB has depended on the kinds of life decisions he has made since starting the treatment.
"If I am in a bunch of chaos and I go in there and get the shot, and I go back into the same chaos that I came in there with, and I don't change anything up in my life, then it could last a week," he said. "But if I make good decisions and I don't put myself in bad spots, sometimes it can help for months."
Meyer said his last treatment was in February.
So far, his efforts have raised more than $9,500 toward his $100,000 goal. He plans to donate 100% of the proceeds to Semper Fi Fund to help veterans pay for the procedure, which can cost up to $900 a session when it's done in conjunction with an ultrasound machine, according to Meyer.
He said he has had the procedure done without the ultrasound machine, but it's not as precise or effective.
"The way Dr. Mulvaney does it, with his procedure, has been the best and most effective way that I have seen," Meyer said. "Hopefully, the more people that get this, the more results we will see and the more people will push back on the VA and other insurance companies out there to cover it."
Meyer added that he would like to see every person with PTSD, not just veterans, be treated with SGB.
"PTSD is PTSD; it doesn't matter if it's from combat, whether it's from sexual trauma, domestic violence trauma or just childhood trauma -- it's all the same," he said.
"My goal is just to help people that are having bad days and going through rough patches in their life to get back on their feet and then have peace again."
The GoFundMe campaign can be found here.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.