30 days, life-changing results: The new treatment available to veterans in the Ohio Valley

Veterans Voices
Countdown To Christmas
December 25 2021 12:00 am

HARRISON COUNTY, Ohio (WTRF) – When veterans return home from combat, sometimes they’re left with more than memories. That can be a physical injury or a mental scar that we can’t see, but won’t go away. 

But, what happens when a veteran feels like there’s no help left? 

22 veterans a day commit suicide.

Inside a small room in Harrison County, they’re taking the first steps to reduce that number. 

We’re trained in the military to suck it up and drive on and it’s a good concept in battle.

Dirk Harkins, Veteran

However, it’s not always when it comes to readjusting from combat to the comforts of home. 

30 days. That’s a very short amount of time to get the rest of your life back.

Dirk Harkins, Veteran

The dull humming of the TMS machines inside a small room at the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office is a welcome noise to area veterans. 

What they’re doing is kinda pressing control alt delete in the brain and we’re re-booting it. We’re slowing the neurons down or speeding them so that both sides of the brain are working at their optimum level.

Dirk Harkins, Veteran

It’s called transcranial magnetic stimulation and it’s helping veterans with PTSD, brain injuries, and much more. 

TMS works with a magnet. Those wishing to receive the treatment get an initial EEG to test how their brain waves are functioning. Then, that number is sent to a treatment center in California. The time and intensity of the treatments is adjusted based on each person’s unique brain rhythm with guidance from the treatment center.

About 35 veterans have completed the program in Harrison County. It takes 30 minutes a day, five days a week for six weeks for a total of 30 treatments.

I felt a tingle go down my hands and I’ve never been able to close my hands for years and years and right then I closed a complete fist without any problem.

Terry Fabry, Veteran

Terry Fabry of Smithfield is a Vietnam veteran. When 7News spoke to him, he only had one more session left to finish his TMS treatment. Before it helped improve his life, Fabry had trouble sleeping and was in pain most of the time.

When I was over there I fell down a mountain and I was carrying a radio and I had my M-79, which carries 68 rounds and it was a lot of weight. When I fell down the mountain I fell probably 20, 30 feet and I rolled into a cave and screwed up my neck, my lower back and my ankle. Everything from that time hasn’t been good.

Terry Fabry, Veteran

Fabry said he saw results after the first session.

I am proud of what I did. I did what I thought I should do at the time and I’ve just had to live with the aftermath.

Roy Stewart, Veteran

Roy Stewart is a Vietnam veteran who lives in St. Clairsville.

He said he’s struggled mentally for years, especially with sleep after his wife died. His stepson, also a veteran, sustained a head injury during service. 

I am sleeping better. I haven’t quite got all the way yet, because I’m starting my third treatment now, but it’s worth it because I feel better and my stepson’s doing better.

Roy Stewart, Veteran

Spend time with the group that frequently gathers at the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office and they’ll tell you how much TMS changed their lives. 

It’s not just for veterans. The treatment is FDA approved for headaches and anxiety. 

There are around 50 of these TMS machines in the world, and two of them reside in Harrison County. People from 11-years-old all the way to 93-years-old have gotten the treatments.

I feel like this has made me more at ease. It’s made me more comfortable. 

Terry Fabry, Veteran

Dirk Harkins sets up these machines five days a week. He works so hard to help others because he knows how TMS can change a life. 

I found myself in a high-speed chase with local law enforcement agencies and I pulled over and tried suicide by cop at that time.

Dirk Harkins, Veteran

In this Digital Exclusive, hear veteran Dirk Harkins describe the difficult journey after an injury and PTSD diagnosis that lead him to TMS treatments and how they changed his life.

Harkins served in the Army in the 82nd Airborne and was injured in 2007 when a Humvee he was riding in was hit with an IED. He suffered back, neck and hip injuries, was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and PTSD. Harkins returned home and was never the same. 

He was stuck in a days-long depression, after years of struggles with opioids and alcohol and Harkins recalls he was at the end of his rope. 

After seeking help at the V.A. and told to come back in a few days, he found himself in that encounter with police and eventually in jail. There Harkins called his friend, Ohio State Senator Frank Hoagland, who got him into TMS treatments in Texas for six months.

For 12 years I was having a headache every single day at one level or another I would wake up with a headache. Throughout the week I would probably have two to three maybe four migraines where they would put me down and I’d have to rely on medication and sleep to try and get rid of these migraine headaches, but after the fourth treatment I woke up for the first time in 12 years and didn’t have a headache. If that was all that happened to me I would of come back to Ohio excited, you know what I mean, but it started doing other things. It’s started giving me clarity. It gave me mental focus and energy and started giving me my life back.

Dirk Harkins, Veteran

He now channels that energy into getting more TMS treatments to veterans in the Buckeye State. Working with Senator Hoagland and local sheriff’s departments, they want to make sure it’s available to anyone, anywhere who needs it. 

Harkins said he’s already began that initial EEG on several veterans and first responders in Noble County to set up the next treatment site.

It’s gonna start right here in the Ohio Valley and it’s going to spread out across the state.

Dirk Harkins, Veteran

If you’re a veteran or first responder and would like to learn more about TMS and what it does, you can call Dirk Harkins at 740-491-7125.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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