When Capt. Matt Smothermon came home from a deployment to Afghanistan with the Oklahoma National Guard’s 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, he wasn’t the same person.
He suffered debilitating headaches and couldn’t think properly. He had a hard time focusing, he said, and social situations became difficult to handle.
“Things got bad,” he said.
Speaking at a news conference Wednesday, Smothermon credited a relatively new type of treatment for giving him his life back. State lawmakers are seeking to make that treatment available at no cost to other veterans with traumatic brain injury.
While in Afghanistan, Smothermon was a platoon leader on a route clearance team, searching for roadside bombs. After surviving three separate bomb blasts, he was hospitalized and diagnosed with traumatic brain injury.
When he returned home, Smothermon noticed the lasting effects the injury had on his cognitive and social skills. He’d been in law school when he deployed, but didn’t see a way he could finish.
He decided to undergo hyperbaric oxygen therapy through the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences. He noticed a difference almost immediately, he said. He began to regain his cognitive and social skills.
After 40 rounds of the treatment, he was back in law school. After 80 rounds, he took over as commander of his unit, leading the company in the Oklahoma National Guard’s response to the Moore tornado.
A bill in the Oklahoma Legislature would make the same treatment available for free to any Oklahoma veteran who has been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and has received a prescription for the treatment.
Senate Bill 1604 passed unanimously out of the Senate on March 10. It now heads to the House for consideration.
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We have a huge investment in the military in Oklahoma. We have a huge debt to those who served.”
Retired Air National Guard Maj. Gen. Rita Aragon,
State secretary of military and veteran affairs