Local doc who treats vets’ PTSD gets big-name help
By Janelle Walker For The Courier-News June 30, 2012 4:32PM
Actor Mathew St. Patrick speaks during a meeting at Al's Cafe in Elgin, Ill., on Thursday, June 28, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~For Sun-Times Media |
Updated: August 2, 2012 10:27AM
ELGIN — Dr. Eugene Lipov believes that he has not just a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, but also what looks like a promising cure.
The Hoffman Estates doctor has published a book on the topic as well as in medical journals. He’s received one grant to continue testing the treatment on recent U.S. military veterans, and he hopes to treat 100,000 veterans in the coming years.
His crusade to help bring relief to veterans suffering from PTSD has also brought in some big names — locally, nationally and from Hollywood.
Lipov, along with former 16th Circuit Court Judge and retired U.S. Marine Brigadier Gen. William Weir, met Thursday with Mathew St. Patrick. St. Patrick is best known for his role in HBO’s “Six Feet Under” and has also appeared on “All My Children.”
St. Patrick was introduced to Lipov by Gerald Paulsen, another Elgin-area resident and a friend, to help publicize the potential of Lipov’s treatment.
To treat the psychiatric disorder of PTSD, Lipov began performing what is called a stellate ganglion block. He injects an anesthetic into that group of nerves in the neck.
Lipov uses the anesthetic bupivacaine — the same drug often used in epidurals for women in labor.
On Thursday, St. Patrick and Paulsen met with one of the veterans before and after his third ganglion block treatment.
He could immediately tell the difference between the before and after, St. Patrick said. “There is this level of calmness, a level of engagement, physically — in terms of talking to you and not away from you, directing a portion of his statements to you …,” St. Patrick said. “To experience the change in an hour was pretty phenomenal, compared to the way he was prior” to the treatment.
The 44-year-old actor said he wanted to get involved with Lipov’s work because of his family connection to the military. Both his father and brother served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Neither is still alive, he added.
The problem of PTSD for returning Iraq and Afghanistan vets “should be addressed with as much firepower as possible,” St. Patrick said. “Until you move in a direction to have a solution for the problem, how interested are you in trying so solve it? There are so many people suffering from these traumatic situations … why should we not be a the forefront of getting them help that is long-lasting and more effective?”
Since 2007, when Lipov first began using the treatment for PTSD and similar disorders, he has treated 65 individuals from 22 states, New Zealand and Israel.
Lipov received an $80,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs to treat 10 male veterans suffering from PTSD. The treatments cost $1,000 each, and average three treatments per veteran — or any other PTSD sufferer — to really work.
The need for an effective treatment for the disorder is huge, said Weir, the retired general.
“These figures would raise eyebrows, but they are from the government,” Weir said. “We are averaging 18 military suicides a day, 1,000 a month.”
At that rate, Weir noted, the U.S. is losing more service men and women from suicide than who died in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan.
“The human carnage is catastrophic,” Weir said.
It is that human carnage that also drew St. Patrick to the cause. When he first moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career, he didn’t have money or connections. “I was homeless,” St. Patrick said, and got to know veterans in the city who were in the same situation. He saw the depression that the lack of a job, sometimes because of the PTSD the veteran had.
“I have an understanding of the struggles of the recipients” of the treatments, St. Patrick said. “I also realize the most important thing is … giving attention to the problem and to make the public aware of what is being done.”
Lipov isn’t the only doctor using the ganglion block for PTSD treatment. He has read literature and on message boards regarding what others are doing — and doesn’t always agree with the other approaches.
What he wants, however, is to create a “center of excellence” in Hoffman Estates to bring all of those doctors using the treatment into one sphere. “Doctors then can do it, under us, so they do it correctly,” Lipov said.
It just so happens that Weir and others are working to bring a state-of-the art veterans museum to the Hoffman Estates area as well, Weir said. If constructed, the museum would honor veterans from all branches of the military and all U.S. wars in the nation’s history, he said.
“It is pure coincide that both are in Hoffman Estates. They are totally separate,” Weir said. While there is a hope that the museum and “center of excellence” could work together, there are no plans for that now, he added.
“Both can enhance the life and the memories of our veterans,” Weir said.