DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – Joseph Gallagher was nearing the end of a 20-year career in the military when he was sent to lead U.S. Army troops in the first Gulf War.
The exposure to burning oil and chemicals left him and many others with brain injuries.
“As you were moving into the fight there was just smoke in the air,” Gallagher said.
“Seven-hundred-thousand troops were in the Gulf War and as a result of their exposure and probably due to some genetic conditions, one-third of them have become ill and are ill to this day,” said Dr. Alison Bested, with Nova Southeastern University.
That’s why South Florida resident Alex Cruz founded The 22-Project, a name that represents the number of veterans who commit suicide every day in the U.S.
Cruz set out to raise money for veterans to receive hyperbaric oxygen therapy in hopes of increasing blood flow to the brain and ultimately reversing the damage caused by Gulf War syndrome and other injuries.
“This is not covered by health insurance or the V.A. so my wife and I saw the benefits of this and say maybe we can sponsor one at a time,” Cruz said.
In the last 4 to 5 years, The 22-Project has helped over 130 veterans.
“We’ve had great support from the corporate community and private community because I think everyone realizes the need is so great,” said Peter Anderson, Foundation Chairman of The 22-Project.
The foundation recently joined forces with NSU to launch a study called The Hero’s Project to investigate the potential benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy on chronic issues such as fatigue, pain and sleep difficulties related to Gulf War syndrome.
“What we want to do is see if after having 40 treatments if the subjects improve,” Bested said.
With the support of The 22-Project, Gallagher has undergone several hyperbaric treatments.
“Over time it seems to have done something to relieve the pressure that I have,” he said.
If proven to be beneficial, researchers hope the results of the study will lead to the approval of hyperbaric therapy for coverage by insurance.