By Meriwether Ball for GPTSI Foundation

9 Questions with U.S. Marine Dad & Husband - Brad

Stellate ganglion block procedure date – March 2018

Please share how you came to be aware of the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB)?

I was contacted by a former Marine by the name of Jamie Cox. He was sent to speak with me on behalf of GySgt Moreland from the Marine Corps recruiting depot in our hometown. GySgt Moreland knew of my situation and also my son’s, who is also a Marine. Jamie informed me of a procedure he had done in Chicago by Dr. Lipov called Stellate Ganglion Block.

Why did you think it might help you?

Jamie has told me so much about the procedure and how it had changed his life. How one day, he could not even leave his home and now you can’t keep him at home. He spoke of anger and fear and how this procedure helped him think clearly to deal with such things. I felt it was worth a try to see if it could help me like it had helped Jamie.

What symptoms were you hoping to see it relieve?

I was hoping to see it relieve my anger which was to be better said, rage.

If you’re comfortable, please share how you came to have a trauma illness?

Where do I begin? It started at an early age, I was only seventeen, when I was held at gun point and robbed at a gas station in our home town. I was kidnapped and driven just over the border and dropped off. I was a lucky survivor, since most don’t come back from such things. This produced some issues. Then joining the Marine Corps just out of high school was a good fit for my rage. Then while on deployment, with the endless night patrols, post watch, and the ups and downs from being on high alert to being back in garrison eventually took its toll. There’s not enough time to even begin to explain every situation and every visual that occurred while on deployment.

After the block, what was the first thing you noticed?

Clarity and happiness. I felt like I could actually think and control feelings. Something I have not experienced in thirty plus years.

How was the medical and paperwork process for you?

I felt that the process was extremely straightforward and easy. They made it easy for me to be able to do this.

How did the staff treat you?

I don’t have the words, nor can I say thank you enough for how great I was treated. They treated me as an individual person with problems as if I was the only patient they had dealt with that day. They looked at us, myself and my son, as if we were heros and thanked us for our service and for what we have done when in actuality, they were the heros in my eyes.

Since receiving the SGB, what has changed for you?

My relationship with my wife. They say you hurt the ones closest to you, my wife understands that better than anyone. How anyone can live with somebody with the problems I had is beyond me. I feel in control of my anger and other emotions that would usually destroy anyone that crossed my path. This has completely changed my life.

If you felt you needed another one, would you get it done?

I would be there in a half of a heartbeat to have this done again if needed.

11 Questions with Wife & Mom - Jody

Please share how you came to be aware of the SGB?

GySgt Moreland came into our T-shirt shop to have some polos embroidered and asked about our Marine Corps flag hanging in our lobby. Brad told him that he served after high school and that his son did as well, but unfortunately, Derek wasn’t adjusting back to life very well. Shortly after that conversation, another Marine, Jamie Cox, stopped by our shop at the request of GySgt to talk to Brad about a procedure he had done in Chicago that may help Derek.

Tell me what about it made you think it would work for Brad and Derek?

Jamie explained the procedure (which I’ve got to be honest - sounded WAY too good to be true), he explained his mood and daily routine (or lack of) prior to the procedure, and how he deals with life now. His life prior was very similar to what we were experiencing with Derek? losing interest in jobs, no matter how great they were, his inability to get a good night’s sleep, his disinterest in keeping a tidy house or eating healthy... it was all very familiar. We were so excited about the idea that there was something that could help Derek sort out the thoughts that were keeping him from being productive and happy.

Jamie’s explanation of how it helped him think more clearly, and control his anger is what made me think it would be great for Brad. Brad didn’t have the same introverted symptoms, wanting to stay home or no longer maintaining relationships that are important, that Jamie and Derek dealt with prior to their procedures. But I knew that it would be a good fit for Brad’s inability to determine the difference between a big deal and a little deal... his inability to be okay with someone having a different opinion than his... someone being able to mention Hillary Clinton without the top of his head popping off.

Please tell me what life was like with Brad before the block?

Life was unpredictable. I wasn’t sure if I was getting happy Brad or angry Brad. I used to joke that Brad has two emotions? happy and angry. When he’s happy, he’s happy. When he’s sad, he’s angry. When he’s hurt, he’s angry. When he’s annoyed, he’s angry. When he’s scared, he’s angry. I had never experienced such extreme emotions before and it was such a roller coaster. Brad is a loving, protective, providing man and I am an empathetic, nurturing, world’s most patient person (if I may..), so we were a good team. I could handle his outburst by talking him down, or getting what he needed, or generally being accommodating. But over time I was starting to break down. I was running out of steam and my feet hurt from walking on egg shells. Last month, we got into a fight over nothing (truly nothing), and I was tired of being on the roller coaster. I asked him if he would consider “going to Chicago”. He agreed, we filled out the paperwork, and Greg got the boys in right away.

Did you have any expectations?

I really didn’t. I am a hopeless optimist, so I dreamed of him waking up and being more carefree, less angry. But I’m realistic too, and like I said before, the procedure sounded too good to be true so I didn’t want to get my hopes up.

When was the first moment you knew it helped Brad?

When the doctor came to get me to go back and see the boys, I noticed immediately that Derek looked better. He looked relieved… it was wonderful. Brad had to have two blocks, so he had been put under twice and he was still loopy from that. He was happy and silly, but I couldn’t tell if he really felt better or if he was just anesthesia drunk. A few hours later we were at the Chicago airport and I asked him to go with me to find some coffee, which he happily did because his desire to protect me was not weakened at all. We walked for probably fifteen minutes looking for a coffee stand, which normally would have driven him crazy! We finally found one, got my coffee, and went back to our gate to sit down. When we got back, our son said, “Why didn’t you go to THAT one?” and pointed to the left, where there was a Starbucks 25 feet away from our seats. We laughed and laughed at what would have normally caused us to not talk to each other for hours. Our first experience when a little deal remained a little deal... it was a miracle.

How did that moment impact you?

It was such a relief. It was hold-my-breath and prepare to defend my ignorance of all Starbucks locations nationwide, only to get to laugh it off. It was funny and emotionally confusing, but it was great.

It has been almost two weeks now, please share what life has been like for you since Brad and Derek returned from Chicago?

I can honestly tell you that I was not prepared for life after the block. It went exactly how I had dreamed. Brad feels better, things don’t make him angry, he’s considerate of other people’s feelings. it’s better than I could have hoped. What I never, ever expected was the transformation that I would need to go through to adjust emotionally. Suddenly, I’m the irrational one. I’m the one that gets “annoyed at little things”. My unnoticed transformation from the easy going, unruffled empathic one happened so gradually, that I didn’t notice how much I anticipated Brad’s mood swings (that are suddenly no longer an issue) and how I somewhere along the lines began to match his energy. Now I have nervous energy that has been really emotional to process. When something happens that I expect will upset Brad, I get a surge of adrenaline that I normally need to accommodate his outburst that he’s no longer having. Then I have to come down from a spot I never even realized I was at. It has been really unexpected and challenging. BUT.. I’m thankful every day for the gift that we were given through Brad’s procedure. My heart has not changed, only my reaction to situations, so I know it won’t be long before I’m able to let my guard down and be easy-going me again. But if I can bring light to the changes a spouse must go through, I’d like to do that, because I was really caught off guard by my personal recovery.

What were your thoughts about the costs involved?

The cost of the procedures were covered for us, we only needed to provide our transportation, food, and hotel. We are thankful for the help of the clinic that afforded us the ability to have Derek and Brad get treated at the same time. We are very interested in contributing to the foundation and/or charity that makes these procedures available to veterans in need. If you have that information, I’d love to have it!

Did you interact with Dr. Lipov or his staff and how did that go?

I only met Dr. Lipov briefly after their procedures. He was very friendly and easy to talk with.

If you thought Brad needed another block, would you want him to get it?


Is there anything else you would like to share?

I have a few ideas that would help the spouse while they wait for their honey during the procedure, but as a wife and mother reflecting on how it went for my husband and son. I could not be happier!

8 Questions with U.S. Marine Son - Derek

Stellate ganglion block procedure date – March 2018

Why did you think the SGB might help you?

Because we heard about from another marine who got the procedure done and told us how much it helped him with his every day life.

What symptoms where you hoping to see it relieve?

I was hoping it would relieve some of my anger, depression, and mostly anxiety. My anxiety would turn into anger a lot because I was always paranoid something bad was going to happen.

If you're comfortable, please share how you came to have a trauma illness.

I was in combat in Afghanistan for almost a year.

After the block, what was the first thing you noticed?

I felt relieved and happy. The plane ride home was to biggest way to tell, I wasn’t paranoid about being in a small space with a lot of people.

How was the medical and paperwork process for you?

It was really good.

How did staff treat you?

They treated us amazing and were very friendly.

Since receiving the SGB, what has changed for you?

If I am tired I’m not as angry and grumpy. I don’t get as much anxiety about things, like something bad is going to happen me or mostly to my family. I don’t feel like I will get into slump and have a hard time pulling myself back out. I’m on more of a steady level in life in general. Every day isn’t so much of up and downs.

If you felt you needed another one, would you get it done?

I definitely would.

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