Matt, a first responder, discussed his personal experience with PTSD on the "Wellness Insights" podcast. He emphasized the increased trauma exposure for current first responders and the importance of recognizing and supporting those dealing with significant trauma. Matt also shared his journey through various treatments, including therapy and experimental treatments, and the challenges faced in managing PTSD. The conversation also highlighted the prevalence of trauma and PTSD among first responders and the need for effective treatments.
Highlights of the podcast
00:16 - The psychological trauma that we get
02:24 - Ignorant to PTSD and very naive about it
05:34 - The mindset you needed
12:00 - Excellent book on trauma, PTSD
17:59 - Traditional therapy modalities
22:47 -The triggers, the associations
31:08 - It's not necessarily a one-and-done lifetime
35:30 - The COE and discharging and I started with the doctor
38:21 - People are putting on 65 medications
Dr Chalmer's Wellness Podcast with Matt Vemea PTSD Firefighter.mp4
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:00:04] Hey, Dr. Chalmers, welcome back to another episode of Wellness Insights with Dr. Chalmers. What we're doing today is we're kind of going through some of the stuff we've been working with ketamine for PTSD, depression, anxiety, stuff like that. The trauma, the psychological trauma that we get, especially with our first responders and our veterans and say that was with us today. We're going to kind of go through kind of his stuff and with his journey through ketamine. So, Matt, thanks for coming in and talking with us, I think is going to help lots of people. So thanks for coming.
Matt Vemea [00:00:33] Absolutely. Thank you for having me. And thank you for the treatment. It's been a huge blessing.
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:00:38] Absolutely. MAN Yeah, that's that's been I've been super excited about it kind of going through. So I started a body off to, you know, go through kind of your stuff. You know, you've been you've been a first responder for a long time. You've done a lot of stuff kind of go through and that tells you the stuff that you've done. You know, you kind of we're life kind of ended up and how how bad it got and then we'll kind of run through the treatment. So Guided, jump in with your stuff.
Matt Vemea [00:01:02] Yeah I'll try to even best to recap started the fire service in high school as a cadet 2000 to shortly after 911 and then professionally, right after I graduated 18 2004, MTA firefighter became a paramedic. 2021 did about 18 years of professional service. I worked all over California, kind of some of the some of the worst spots as well in the country I did about a decade in Stockton, also worked in Oakland, San Francisco Bay Area, as well as for the state. So so a lot of trauma, a lot everything from, you know, accidental shooting, stabbings, being shot at, being attacked, fighting people on drugs and PCP on a more regular basis and then should be for certain lost lost folks in the line of duty that I've worked with, lost a lot of guys on and off duty just saw a lot of tragedy, a lot of death. I kind of was that black cloud as well. Like something crazy was going to happen. It was going to be my call, I was going to be on it. And that carried across every agency I worked with in my whole career. So that translated. I think. Now, looking back, I think, like I said in our initial interview. I was very, I'm just going to say, ignorant to PTSD and very naive about it, Especially my earlier career. We knew little to nothing about it. It was barely being talked about in the earlier 2000, even to probably the last five years. I would say that I knew almost nothing. And it sort of put the pieces together, realizing symptoms. But it really took me a long time. Now, knowing what I know, I probably added at 21, probably few years ago, I saw more in my first couple of years of my career than most most guys will in their entire career. And there's new studies I would say felt that way. And then there's data that came out. There were folks that retired or would have started per se in like the seventies and retired, let's say, on the average 30 year career, about 2000. Now, anybody coming in and their first 3 to 5 years across the board on average is going to see more than somebody would a 35 year career. 35 years ago. 30 years ago.
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:03:23] Across the border is that you have police, fire, paramedics.
Matt Vemea [00:03:27] Yeah, that's. That's all. All first responders. Emergency services across the board. So anybody showing up tonight on call? Yeah, like somebody in 3 to 5 years now across the board, you know, it's going to differ on the call volume in areas. But across the board, they did a national study in 35 years. Now people will see more than people did an entire career over decades previous years ago. Just the increase in accidents, the increase in violence. I guess studies are just a lot more going on, especially the mental health crisis. I would say there's a lot more suicides, so there's a whole lot more trauma that these first responders are being exposed to, that it is significantly increased level than it used to be.
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:04:12] And, you know, when I talk to you about this, it's like you talk about combat veterans are like, oh, I totally get that. I'm like, what? And a lot of times it's worse as our first responders and they look at me kind of funny and I'm like, Well, who do you think sees all the car wrecks? Who do you think this is? The four year old kids out of pools? Like, who do you think sees the gunshot wounds and the burned bodies? And so, like, our first responders put themselves between that trauma and us for us. And so that's kind of one of those things. And we start explaining to our like, oh my gosh, And you think about that Like, I, I have a whole new respect for the firefighters and the police officers and things like that in my area. And, you know, it's it's true. Like we pull up to Iraq, you know, if you're driving by Iraq and there's the cops and firefighters out there like everybody looks, because we don't really want to see mangled bodies. But, you know, that's what you're looking for. And you guys have to see it and clean it up and move these guys around and tell them they're going to be fine when you know they're not like that. That's there's a lot of really, really bad stuff that you guys have to deal with. So, you know, that's one of the reasons I was like, we got to include you guys in the charity stuff. Um, so, so when it was, you know, you saw that stuff. Real quick, if we can recap kind of how your life was as far as what PTSD felt like and what it was doing to you and to your family just a little bit. So can run through that for us a little bit.
Matt Vemea [00:05:28] Yeah. I've always been kind of a, you know, very type-A guy, and I figured that was just the mindset you needed. And I've been doing that more than half my life now, the majority of my life and my entire adult life. So it really was my identity in second generation public safety as well. My my dad was was in law enforcement. So it's kind of all I've ever known that I grew up around a lot of trauma and a lot of chaos where I was. So now I'm looking back with what I've learned, the treatment I went through, like how early it probably really started and all the contributing factors, but it basically escalated to the point where I just I thought I had pretty bad A.D.D.. That's just was my assumption for the longest time. Really easy to be irritable, distracted. I just thought I had a temper and a lack of patience, but I cared about people willing to help them, right? So almost like an oxymoron. I'm very, very conflicted. There. Didn't really make sense. Really, really bad. Insomnia. My sleep was that awful for years and years and years now. And I know that's the shift work, the emergencies. It's just, you know, I wake up after like 2 hours and I couldn't go back to sleep no matter what I tried melatonin. That increases insomnia. I mean, I've tried so many just different things. So the insomnia was really bad. The irritability would definitely cause a lot of strain with the kids getting easily trigger and overwhelmed. It really escalated to the point where I started having some dissociative episodes, which was definitely scary. Thank God none of mine got to the point in the extreme that some other people I know with PTSD, with PTSD started started on T or T, slightly helpful but didn't fix it. I tried CBT, I tried different other modalities. Trying to figure stuff out was really dealing with irritability, depression, and in denial. I was not even in denial. So finally. We're also short staffed. Just like law enforcement, it's really no different anymore. In the early 2000 California, there were 5000 qualified applicants per position for opening. It was like the most competitive job of the country. And then fast forward about 20 years later, we can't even get enough qualified applicants for positions. But that is how drastic it has changed with society, with our culture of people that don't want to serve anymore. People don't want to deal with it. It's not what it was. It's definitely gotten worse. Unfortunately, the working conditions, the environment, the treatment, the things we see all of that is is gotten worse for the first responders. So it's definitely not helping in the recruitment and marketing side of things as the numbers dictate. You know, the numbers that actually spell it out. So things change a lot. So. So with that being short staffed, I was working like two full time shifts for years minimum plus in California. And we'd had fire season, which ran at least half the year. So we'd be sent out, for instance, for that backfilling behind it. So I was at work just almost all the time. Like my younger daughters, I worked almost the entire lives, you know, when it came to holidays, they just knew they were going to the firehouse to see me. If I wasn't out on a larger fire incident, there was a short window. We finally got staffed up and I'm like, Maybe that's it. Maybe I'll just overwork. I'm stressed out, I'm tired, maybe I'll get some sleep. Maybe that's all it was like, you know, get some actual days off, you know, like that kid you're going to make six figures will only work ten days month. It's going to be glorious, right? Like a part time job. But, you know, and here I am working, you know, 1000 hours a month, but, you know, not, you know, minimum, only six straight. Just none of it was what I thought it would be. So with that, I finally got some days off where things are gonna get better. I want to be able to chill out, get some stuff done around the house with some time with the family. And it didn't. It got worse. And that was I think it was one of the biggest takeaways from me. I finally had some time off in years. Things got worse all of a sudden as I experienced the irritability, the triggers. Like I was so excited to come home, I'd be gone at least five days and be excited to see the young kids. I'd get home and just instantly get set off worrying about this. We didn't lock that Hypervigilance was through the roof. Ten out of ten. You know, that's that's
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:09:46] Real quick. I'm not going to explain what that is because a lot of people don't understand what that means. So the walk through walk through what that feels like and sounds like there's a lot of guys who have that and they don't know it.
Matt Vemea [00:09:56] Yeah, it is. I would say probably every first has at least a degree of and you have to really just kind of keep you alive, but it's more of a sympathetic, you know, fight response where you're looking for exits, looking for threats, making sure stuff secure. I mean, I've even caught my teenager sneak out of the house because of my extreme hypervigilance, right? So there's some good and some bad with it. It'll keep you safe, but it also keep you miserable if it's bad because you're just at that heightened sense of awareness where you can't you can't like, engage, be present or enjoy anything. You're there, but you're not like you're physically there. Mentally, you're checking threats, you're being distracted. What about this guy over here? What about that?
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:10:38] Yeah, well, yeah, I was talking to he was talking about in a restaurant. He was like, I can't go to a restaurant because I'll have to sit with my back to the wall. And every single thing that moves. Everyone who comes in, everybody who's member, I have to assess that and be like, Is that a threat or is that not like I can't even enjoy a meal? And so, like, that's the funny thing. That was the big one. So I talked to the guys together. I, you know, I kind of have that too. And so that's why I was like, you got this hypervigilance from X, Y, Z. So that's why I want to make sure we covered it. But yeah.
Matt Vemea [00:11:05] Yeah, that's it. You know, you double, triple check in. The doors are locked. You know, if guys have cameras, you know not I wouldn't say full blown. Some people may. Confused with paranoia to an extent, if you will, but you're walking around distressed. I wound up in the door, get shut in this, get checked about. And I attribute a lot of that to being a firefighter. Medic. Look, I got to show up and handle any emergency at any time. And, you know, Hey, hey, I can't do it head on what to do here. Forgot my stuff. Like, none of those are acceptable answers when you know somebody a loved one of their life on the line. And I think that's it. It's like a death by a thousand cuts or more. You just don't realize, like, how much that that gets to you. 24, seven, seven. Be ready for anything and everything at any moment's notice. You got to be ready for anything and everything under the sun so that, you know, you just can't disengage and like step away from that. And what's weird is the the body keeps score. Excellent book on trauma, PTSD, excellent book, if anybody hasn't. Dr. Bessel Van Kerkhove probably saying his name wrong, but he was kind of the one that really pioneered it from war neuroses to shellshock to really what PTSD is now. And a lot of the early information, a lot of psycho for him as well. And he talked about that. And a lot of it really resonated with me, made sense about PTSD and trauma. And there were studies done, but one of them was people that seek these careers. A lot of them have experienced trauma, which adds up for me and makes sense in their youth or childhood that seek these things. Like one of the things was like dangerous, dangerous behavior, reckless behavior, things like that. And I was like, Wow, I'm pretty disciplined. I'm squared away, I'm responsible, have kids, And then I'm sitting back thinking like, well, my job is dangerous. I work in much dangerous city. I'm doing tactical medicine. At one point, I was doing a fugitive recovery. On my days off, my wife should head down. And then I started to go back and think. I'm like, Yeah, okay. I guess I was trying to get myself killed on and off duty every day. Like, okay, you know, definitely I think checks the box to qualify at that point. You know, I was in denial of a lot of my symptoms and a lot of my behaviors to say, well.
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:13:20] So so okay. Walk us through the orchestra, how the ketamine treatment piece went and then kind of how how things are now and contrast to how they were.
Matt Vemea [00:13:31] Yeah, absolutely. Like like we were just talking about my hypervigilance was was to the point where I couldn't really enjoy life, you know, outside the house, especially driving. It's much better. That was a real struggle just because I've seen so many accidents, threats, unsafe drivers that like if anybody asked me anything or made a noisy walls drive and they would start away like pretty significant or really trigger that sympathetic response and get me really worked up to where it wasn't pleasant for my family or enjoyable at all, to say the least. So like road trips and that were miserable, were not fun or super stressful having young kids. And that's the element, you know, doesn't make it easier, but it's normal life that I should be able to live and anybody else should like. It shouldn't trigger me to the point or extent that it did. You know, talking about going out, I didn't go to the movies, to a movie theater for five, six years. I just wouldn't go because it was it was the stress was just too much like. So many people. Unknown elements, the things that I saw. Maybe even the simple things like that, just not enjoyable, which is not cool. So was there a lot of treatment leading up to ketamine? Circling back to that, finally got some time off. Things got worse. The no, you know, the noise, the that's where I was getting out with that is traumatize people, seek trauma. So like, on those calls, on those emergencies, I was my happy place and my sense of peace in that chaos. And I thrived in that. And I worked really well, which didn't really make sense because you would think of difficult situations where you struggle. But it was actually all the normal day to day life. The simple things were I struggled the most significantly, and so that's when I sought help. I finally found saw a specialist with specialized PTSD, first responders, and Baxter and her her dad was a chief of police in Tel Aviv, Israel, and he had really bad PTSD. He saw bombings and trauma like literally every single day over there. So that's what got her to seek the path and treating that. So pretty cool history. And she did EMDR but it was I wasn't there maybe 1020 minutes and she was like, yeah, you have severe PTSD really bad. And she's like, You're a couple of years too late. We're going to do we can do like you should not be working. She's like, This is really bad. Like all the symptoms you described or PTSD to the max, she's like you based that every qualifying criteria affected. I'm like, Oh, great. You know, it's kind of like I was in denial and avoiding it, but it was getting worse, getting worse, and that was it when it really you know, when I really. Picked up a little bit of self-awareness and saw how much it was affecting the family. That's when I went and saw how if it was me and like a lot of other guys, you know, they're selfless. We're also really stubborn. You know, those two things are not not a good combination, especially with like mental health or self care. So there's a lot of guys that will get help because it felt like they're like guys now. I got pulled off on the holidays. I felt terrible letting my guys down, let the crew down. But in hindsight, obviously, I'm glad I did it for myself and my family. Things are much better because of getting that help. And also, I got to gas my department, went and got help shortly thereafter that were were not doing good. I mean, to the point where, you know, one of my guys, a little police chief, found a walk to the beach with a loaded gun. So, like, thank God, got there on time and he's getting treatment. He was he reached out touch base with me, which is great. So you just really don't know how bad I think people are struggling and how many issues are really out there until you bring that up. And I think that's it, too. We're such a proud community of stubborn, tough guys that it's hard enough. For me, it was like information or the lack thereof. I didn't even know I could get PTSD. I thought that was going to combat this. And then we talked for out a lot of guys coming back. I worked with. There were medics that were Medivac that were reservists. Still, they're coming back and like, Man, I feel like I never left Afghanistan, never left Iraq until I saw more shootings today, when I saw my last deployment, like in one shift. And I was like,.
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:17:40] Yeah.
Matt Vemea [00:17:40] So I'm sort of piece all those things back together and then it makes sense, right, where where it all comes from. So with that. I ended up retiring out of service, retire from the PTSD. That got a lot of treatment, basically hit maximum medical treatment is what they've qualified it as. After traditional therapy modalities, I went to the IFF COE, the center of Excellence, which is just outside of DC, an incredible place just for professional firefighters. Many of them were veterans that were there as well, and they treat trauma, PTSD, so went through EMDR and a lot of other therapy there, which is very helpful, really just to kind of get a better understanding. But it still didn't mitigate all my symptoms. And I also didn't want to be a medicated zombie. I've seen so many bad experiences there with people just getting hooked up on a ton of segments, a lot of bad experiences personally that I've seen with many people I know and through my career. So I've been stuck in this really, really difficult place. I'm struggling. I think things are going to get worse. Woman on psych meds. I've seen the worst for people. So, like, you know, between a rock and a hard place, what I do and then somehow, you know, I think the grace of God. I got a hold of your comment feed or something came across from some mutual friends about you with the charity and the academy. And then we touch base started the treatment and it's so helpful. I believe I it's six sessions in total and each one I definitely got more relief, which was incredible. I think just to start with the I took notes and I was reviewing after each session as well kind of how I was doing the treatments changes and that was one of the things was like I got my first, I think I stuck like 6 hours and I think I was probably averaging like two, two and a half up to at that point, like I track it with my watch. So that was huge. One thing I wasn't ready for and it only happened the first session. I know we're rewiring pathways and I really think that happened because that first session I had the most splitting headache and I was I was hydrated. It was it was a lot the first night it went away after a few hours, but it was intense. But I really think I was actually feeling my brain being reset in a good way because shortly after that it was like my thoughts were less foggy. I was thinking more clear. Things were moving a lot better, which I know decreased the frustration level. My frustration level was very high. I was able to at least I think a lot of the stress and anxiety has definitely turned out. I don't know about a percentage, but a significant amount significantly decreased the anxiety, which I thought was just stress before. I never knew I was anxious until I started getting treatment and
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:20:31] Will pick it. I felt like, Oh, I don't have any anxiety. I'm like, How about stress? Like, Oh, I ain't over stress. I got all the stress in the world, but I don't have anything.
Matt Vemea [00:20:40] Yeah,.
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:20:40] It's the same.
Matt Vemea [00:20:42] Anxieties for women. Stress is for men, right?
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:20:46] That's right, Yeah,
Matt Vemea [00:20:47] Yeah, yeah. So when they told me that I had that I had really, really bad anxiety, you know, secondary to my PTSD. Well, that, that was just still something I had to sit with. And, you know, it made sense as I absorbed it. Processed it. But the. Doing Traditional treatment therapy helps a little EMDR help a little more. But it wasn't enough. Like I was still having a lot of the dreams, the nightmares, the insomnia, my hypervigilance.
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:21:17] How the nightmares Now.
Matt Vemea [00:21:18] I would say they're almost gone in. My sleep has been substantially better.
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:21:26] So you had you had multiple nightmares that night for years. And then after the ketamine, they're more or less gone.
Matt Vemea [00:21:31] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Which is significant. Like, that's that's the biggest thing is I've been able to actually sleep now and be somewhat of a normal human, which is incredible.
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:21:41] How has the anger been? Because that's when I talk to people all the time. One of my buddies told me he was like, My anger is gone is like, I don't know. I don't know how to live without it. He's like, So we had to walk through that. But how was your anger then?
Matt Vemea [00:21:53] Yeah, I can I can definitely resonate with that because that was my to my anger, my temper, like, have a big heart. But I was easy to get trigger and easy to get frustrated. And especially having toddlers, teenagers, you get tested daily by the dozens. She. I think that was the thing. Like I kind of say almost is like a release like, like almost like a controlled delete dumped. A lot of the stress and the anger. Was just, I think, stuck in there that nothing else was helping get rid of that, process it out almost like a cheat code, you know, almost too quick, too easy, which is awesome, especially after years of struggle and years of treatment, getting the only, you know, smidgen of improvement, if you will. So that's one huge cut down, insomnia cut down. On the triggers, the associations. I don't think I've had any sense where I would get super stressed or be in like situations. And that was one of the things that made me make the decision to go to the center. I didn't want to leave my family for almost two months. You know, it wasn't an easy decision to make, especially through the holidays last year, but it was one of those ones where I realized like I needed to because of how I was, again, how I was affecting them. And that was the craziest thing, is getting off work. I actually got substantially worse and it was like the noise settled and then all the trauma and all the other stuff showed up. Definitely wasn't ready for that. You know, and I think that's another thing too, is so many of us were like, Oh, I'll just take a vacation, I'll take some days off and it'll be fine. And it's normally almost always not the case at all with everybody that I've talked to by the hundreds, you know, that have dealt with this. So the dose dissociation is being gone and that's basically where you get to a point where your mind will actually separate and check out because of the stress levels. Right. And then with PTSD, your prefrontal cortex is pretty messed up and misfire and it gets triggered really easy. And that's what sets this stuff off when you hit that fight or flight. So that's substantially cut down to almost none. There was like one incident where my wife jumped in my blinds while she was at the door, ran around the back doors. I'm back enough for her. Scared the hell out of me like restarted that, but I was able to like, reset the process, which before would have been like would have been it. Yeah. Yeah. So I was able to actually, like, work through that so. And still do therapy, working through a lot, but I'm actually able to make significant progress now instead of getting stuck. So huge difference there.
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:24:25] How about like restaurants and theaters? You said you couldn't even go see a movie. How how are you now? Can you be in a movie theater and around?
Matt Vemea [00:24:33] Yeah. Yeah, I have. You know, I still the hydrogens are still there to a degree, but it's it's probably, you know, a to what it used to be a ten something like that. You know, it's, it's substantially less. I was able to take my daughters just over the weekend and everything was good so it's nice nice to be able to live
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:24:52] Your daily we're going to do numbers on a scale like your normal day of just anxiety and stress and crazy. Where was it then and kind of where is it now?
Matt Vemea [00:25:02] I would say before I started the treatment, especially with you, is the worst that ever been, you know, on the personal side, affecting the personal life, the family, the marriage. I'd say it's pretty it was pretty close to a ten. I would say on. Probably between the two and three now. Baseline.
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:25:18] Yeah.
Matt Vemea [00:25:18] So way, way better, Way better. No, the mayor's way better communication is way better. We made a ton of progress, you know, and counseling for ourselves as well as when I was. I feel like this was this was kind of that missing link that's really helped me make a ton of progress that I just wasn't able to get before. And I've literally saw it from more treatment than anybody I know traditionally, you know, and going through extensive in-patient at the Center of Excellence, doing all of it and again, all of it was helpful. I don't I don't at all want to say anything bad about that. And those people are great. But it only got me so far. You know, I feel like I was pretty stuck. Treading water is really what it felt like on a daily, just treading water, trying to keep my head above. And this is finally like kind of in that life raft, if you will. It's like, okay, now I can actually catch my breath. It makes it progress. So it's been huge.
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:26:13] Good, good, good. Has your family noticed the anger, as have they noticed the decrease?
Matt Vemea [00:26:18] Yeah. Yeah. My wife, obviously, she probably doesn't better than anybody, you know, good, bad and everything in between. And. And she's also incredibly intuitive. Like she for years has known that I was either triggered or about to be and wound up and could pick up on all the symptoms of me blowing up and not flared all the things that I was just completely unaware of. She would pick up on all that before. I'm like, What's the issue? And I'm like, There's nothing. She she always knew it. So she was the first one. She took me to treatment. And she actually was you know, she was opposed to it at first too, because it's new. It's scary. It's different.
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:26:54] Yeah.
Matt Vemea [00:26:55] Yeah. I think it really just had to do with just a lack of information. Education, you know, we know that we look at our academy as super safe, helpful, or I know a few other people that have taken it too with PTSD and same thing, been incredibly helpful for them. And so she she saw almost instant changes and the level of frustration I think she had with me and what I put her through with the PTSD, for her to say anything, I think to some significant change on my part. Before shooting me was to admit anything. So her admitting anything at all is significant. And she did. Towards the end of the treatment in my last couple sessions, she said she saw a huge difference. And it's it's been great for for the family because in the marriage definitely.
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:27:39] Yeah one of my buddies is Tommy. He was with his kids in his car and I mean, cut him off. He didn't say anything. And his son was like, Wow, Dad, you're a lot more calm. Do that. Used to rip that guy up. You told me you think he was. Yeah. Okay. Yes. And later he was like, What environment was I was I creating for my children? Like, what kind of toxic environment was I been handing my children because I hadn't been able to deal with my stuff? And he's like, that's usually is like I will start crying because like, I realize what I've been doing. And now that he was able to deal with his stuff better, he was like, I'm like, now I can create an environment for my children where they can grow up with without the trauma that, you know, without that stuff. So that's why I asked to that the kids. So you told me a story and I don't even know if you remember it stuck out so well for my mind. Tell me the story about the dog. You told me a story about how you sit down next to your dog.
Matt Vemea [00:28:33] Oh, yeah? Yeah, I got a dog. Is he still somewhat of. He's almost two years old now. I guess so. He's. But he's still horrible anxiety. Like, he's been super anxious, always anxious around me, super skittish. He's never been hit. Be really good with the dogs. But he just. The breeder told us not to take them. But my wife fell in love with them, probably because of her bleeding heart. And he was, you know, all the all the love he needed that I just did not have the capacity for at all, not even kind over the patients. And and I came home after the first treatment and he normally he would kind of avoid me and be really skittish and he came up and was just totally like almost normal with me leaning up against me wanting to pet him and that I was like, What in the world? That was significant too, you know? And I know dogs obviously are incredibly intelligent, intuitive and pick up on a lot. And that was that was for me, that was eye opening. Like, whoa, kind of like the story of the kids in and car And did you notice that big of a difference for me just after the first treatment? And he has been much better. You know, I mean, there were there was a definitive timeline there where there was no deny, you know, there was nothing else different other than that right then and there. And that was like instantaneous. Yeah. When I came home and he was just totally chill and comfortable sitting next to me, walking up and I would listen and normally he'd be skittish under his crate, wouldn't want to come out. So that was pretty cool. That was
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:30:02] We see dogs to sniff diabetes to sniff out epilepsy. They'll do all sorts of things if they feel your back have a seizure. Like this has been well documented.
Matt Vemea [00:30:10] Yeah.
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:30:11] And so, you know, that's always one of the things, you know, people always say, oh, you know, if my dog doesn't like you, I don't like you because, you know, dogs have such a great, you know, ability to sense people. So that's when you told me that story. I was like, oh, that means so much more to me than everything else. I was so excited when you told that story. So yeah, that was fantastic. So I guess, you know, we went from a ten to a two or three. So, you know, in what how long did it take you to do these treatments? But three or four,
Matt Vemea [00:30:42] We just Yeah. Just under a month. Yeah.
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:30:44] Yeah.
Matt Vemea [00:30:44] It's been, it's been almost it's been about three right out three months. Just over three months since the last treatment. So which is good.
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:30:54] So have you noticed a big uptick back to where you were or are you pretty much level like you're still good.
Matt Vemea [00:30:59] I would say pretty level. I know they've talked about you know, I've talked to other people in herself about, you know, prob they I think they're recommending maybe quarterly write in maintenance. It's not necessarily a one and done lifetime. I would say maybe it's crept back up to a five at times a little bit. But for the most part it's been pretty consistent. I can definitely see the need to do it. Maybe quarterly, you know. You know, some type of modality that's very doable and reasonable for sure, but definitely been a substantial help and and for an extended period of time. Right. It's been several months and I'm still doing still doing pretty good. Way better. So that's a yeah, you know, I definitely I would say I would like to do it again on a, you know, a therapeutic level every so often. And I know only time will tell is we we work through that but it's definitely been incredibly helpful. Incredibly helpful. I did when I was at the center. Some people, because of my anxiety, I was basically stuck right in the fight response just indefinitely. Fully aggressive, ready to go, ready to fight, ready to hit the door. Any noise. I was trigger and I was just, you know, I was ready to go in the worst of ways, in a good way if there was, you know, a life or death situation that in a terrible way for everything else in life, which is almost all of it's best for me now, off duty. That's all of life. So I was stuck there and there was a there was a doctor, anesthesiologist who was a combat vet and a military doc. No, private. And he he does is offered elsewhere this sub the still a gameplay block and some people said it was phenomenal there were probably doesn't guys that got it was there like some guys wouldn't even talk to you because they were so angry it wound up they even are old people right guys worked with and all that in the community, which is helpful. They wouldn't even talk to you. And then one of the guys, you know, got the shot and he came back in tears, hugging everybody. And it was great. And the responses were very varied. So people felt nothing. So people to help for a month. Some people help for a week. And so I went and they laid on the table. If anybody's not familiar, there's some videos you can look up SGB and strap me down. They ended up missing the first time you get essentially a dart through your neck. They're looking at those. And, you know, it was not fun. You know, me being a medic, I know enough about anatomy physiology, where they were like there was a lot of risk and just not fun. So I'm laying there, I'm listening. My heart starts back in a way. And they missed the first time. So you fall over again and the second time at one they're pulling my head to manipulate it. They actually took a resistance band around my wrist, tied it down to the end of the bed to pull my shoulder and hyperextended get through. Like my traps were in the way just from my anatomy. I'm not little and they were having a hard time accessing it. So yeah, I did that twice and they did it. And instantly you feel it, You feel the nerve block. But it helped me for probably a week, two weeks, just like it's like, okay, cool. I came down from attended probably of five for a week. It wasn't very long.
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:34:21] Yeah,.
Matt Vemea [00:34:22] Not only that, it was one of the most miserable, uncomfortable experiences of my life. I was on that bed for 45 minutes with them poking and prodding in my neck until it was miserable as hell.
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:34:33] And the worst part about that in this is this is the thing that I whenever I have to go to a hospital to stop because like, you know, they're sticking needles in your neck, right? You're like if you miss at all, I'm in a really bad place. And so you got to deal with that the whole time, I guess me and saying,
Matt Vemea [00:34:50] Yeah. My anxiety was already here. And then I just hear my heart attack it on the monitor and they got , you know. So there's this noise. I'm tied down, I can't move. I'm being hyperextended. I'm being stabbed. I mean, it was it was like it was like, you know, the perfect storm for anybody anxious. Like,
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:35:10] That's the worst possible thing to do to somebody with PTSD.
Matt Vemea [00:35:12] Yeah. Yeah, it was. It was a traumatizing experience all on its own, Right. And then it was like, you know, you're the most difficult patient I've ever had, like, anatomy wise to do that. I'm like, Of course. Oh, my God. It makes me feel if that all makes it all better, right? So,.
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:35:27] Yeah.
Matt Vemea [00:35:28] So when I was leaving, when I graduated the COE and discharging and I started with the doctor, the medical director or psychiatrist, Look, I know you don't want to talk about segments. You don't want to be a zombie, Get it? But your PTSD is so bad, your anxiety is so bad. We recommend you getting frequent PTSD shots. The absence like there's got to be a better way. I'd rather jump off a bridge like, No, thanks. So I'm super grateful for the Academy option, especially with that being my other treatment that was recommended that wasn't successful or helpful. Like it was not where even if it would have been great for a month or two, it was not worth how miserable that experience was. So yeah, I would really like to avoid that. And ketamine was helped me and was much better. So I'm very grateful, very grateful for that.
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:36:16] Well, absolutely. I'm just I'm just real happy that we could, you know, we be able to get in and help somebody. You know, the thing is, is that, you know, I would kind of talk about the psych meds. Don't work very well. You know, we tried I'm not saying we didn't try like we did it. We did what we could, which like methods didn't work. They don't work for what we're talking about, you know, And then we've got some other stuff. Some of these nerve blocks are helpful for some of the guys. But, you know, we talk to guys like yourself who are at the very peak of problem right there at the ten level. This being the only thing that breaks down. I'm really, really glad that we're able to, you know, get this information out because, you know, I talk to guys, I talk to these that I talk to, you know, I talk to the first responders all the time. And we have these conversations. I'm like, have you guys been told about ketamine? And they're like, well, yeah, we use it all the time. And I'm like, No, for now. They're like, What do you mean? Like knock people out no matter? I don't know. It's great. And so that's one of the reasons I want to make sure we did this, is that for the guys like yourself who have given so selflessly and helped so many people and had to deal with all this trauma, you know, have we not had this conversation, you would never find out about it. And so that's why I'm hoping that, you know, with the charity and everything else, we can start, you know, getting more guys in. We can start having more conversations. We can be like, look, you know, and the thing is, is that like you said, you know, ketamine does an amazing job. And the way I like to use ketamine is we use in to take you from the ten to the two and then, you know, we can use quarterly things to just, you know, reset everything and then hopefully we'll get some laws changed so we can use some of the daily psilocybin to kind of keep things at that lower level as well. The research on a spectacular. So, you know, this is where we're trying to go, where we're trying to change the world, we're trying to change the country and we're trying to change mental health. I believe that the psychedelics academy can easily be a renaissance in mental health because it's not like it helps a little bit better than everything else. It helps substantially more than everything else. And it's not a it's not a miracle. Like here. Here you go. Now you're fixed. But, you know, this is the thing. We should be spending our time and energy on, you know, not trying to People are putting on 65 medications and then they go, you know, shoot up or school or do something like that, like we can actually fix the problem or fix the problem. And so that's why I was so excited about this. And everyone I've talked to who's done it has been like it helped either helped a lot or it fix the problem. No one's done like I did it, and I didn't do anything. Like, I haven't talked to anybody. And I'm sure those guys are out there. But this has been the thing I've been so excited about, have been so happy with the results were getting. Because like I said, you guys put yourselves between us and the trauma. I don't I don't want to be around that stuff. I don't want that stuff around my kids. So thank you guys for doing that. But that's really why we started the charity. I think we got to help these guys out and do whatever we can. So, you know, people ask me, I got I'm in this all the time. I'm talking to guys like you. I'm talking to the guys who are having a problem, talking to you guys about how much better they're doing. And people are like, like, why did you dedicate your whole statement? Sort of that I'm like, because this is now my life. Like, I don't understand how you can be part of this and help, you know, have people tell you the stories that he told me and be like, That's nice. I don't really want to. That's I'm not all in on that. Like because it's it's it's real easy to go like if you're a guy who likes to help people, it's easy to go all in on this because it's like if all I do is just tell other people about this and you guys can go find somebody else to do it, fantastic. Because as long as you know you can do it, you can make the decision to go get help. And so, yeah, I'm super excited about be able to do this. And so I'm very happy that you and your wife both have the trust and what we were doing to, you know, to go through it. And I'm really, really glad that it's been able to help you guys. You know, it's one of those things I talk to vets and I talked to first responders who go through divorces and they lose their kids and stuff like that and they tell the stories and you're just like, it's horrible. And I talked to so many of them. They're like, you know what? It's better for them now. What do you talk about? I'm such an ass like I would I would already scream at my kids, my wife and I was always angry and I could never get rid of it. And so I'm just glad that they're not around this anymore. And I was just always broke. My heart was like. We can just fix you. So.
Matt Vemea [00:40:27] Yeah, yeah, no, that's definitely the thing. And like you said, I know a lot of people have done every other traditional therapy and it's been across the board and it was successful. But ketamine has been the one with everybody that I have talked to. Probably a dozen in total. Personally, they've gotten a lot of help, so it definitely helped me a ton. I'm definitely, definitely advocating and hopefully, you know, we can get the message out. I think that's another thing, too, for guys on duty. You know, guys are still on the job. I'm sure they're concerned about that, about being able to get back to work if they do do the treatment. There's still a lot of still a lot of judgment out there, Still a lot of, you know, tough guys that they want to put people down. And there's still a lot of judgment guys are worried about for sure in that. And, you know, it definitely takes some bravery to reach out and to get some help. But another thing for those guys, anybody that does or is on the fence, I was functional same day. No problem. You know, I know everybody responds slightly different, but it didn't set me out. It didn't knock me out. It didn't set me back other than, you know, needing to rest for a few hours of being a little lethargic. That's that's it. That was the extent of it. There was no hangover. I wasn't out of service for days on end, anything like that. I could have I could have absolutely done the treatment, had been to work the next morning, you know, no problem. And I would say cognitively, you know, guys probably familiar like Alpha Brain see a lot of the ads. Joe Rogan, I was talking about how sharp you know, he is with that. I felt I felt like ketamine was like what they describe alpha brain, you know, symptoms are supposed to be I was I was sharp. I felt like my thoughts, my speech, everything has been more clear and fired a lot better. So I said, So you're going to be go back to work in better shape for sure than than you were, I would say, after ketamine. So. There's nothing to if if you share this, you know, my socials are just my name here. I'm on Facebook, Instagram with any of the guys do want to reach out if there's any other nonprofits or first funders, and that's connected with the few, hopefully we can do a lot more work. But if any of them want to have a personal conversation with me to, you know, I'm happy to have that, feel free to reach out.
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:42:42] Well, you know, my whole thing is getting this information out. So if you've got guys that, you know, you want to bring to the group, like bring to the charity, please do. If there's ways that we can help you reach out to everybody else. But let's build that out, you know, if we can. And I think one of those deals that, you know, and I'm literally thinking about this as we're talking, I've got a Facebook group here to use the Wellness Insights, Facebook group, where you can just kind of take that over for that and everybody can go in and, you know, we'll add some items or something that we'll be able to help discuss it. Like, hey, you know, this is what's going on. This might be like, have you done this? Have you done that? Like, I think that'll help everything else. Well, we'll add of all that in and see if we can form a group that, you know, where we can all talk and be like, hey, you know, this is this is what did did for me and it's worth it for me. So I think that, you know, putting this all together for me a good idea. So I'll start setting that up. But.
Matt Vemea [00:43:31] Absolutely, I'd love to.
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:43:34] Yeah. Yeah. Well, yeah, you know, you're first you choose to be a first responder because you like to help people, you know, that's that's. You know what? No one becomes a firefighter and does little things you do if you don't want to help people. So, like, well, I'll set it up, we'll get started, we'll chat. I've got some guys of the guys. Who is that? I was a cannabis company in Colorado. I'm sorry, in California. They're they're doing some great stuff and we're bringing them in. We got I got meetings with guys today, so we're going to we're going to build this out pretty well. So I'm really excited about what the able to do to help people. And so, yeah, mean we'll do we'll do everything we can to get the word out and talk. So I just appreciate it so much now and, you know, trusting me to do this. But then, you know, having the love for your fellow brothers to come out and tell your story and tell how much has helped you, everybody else can kind of get over a piece of the pieces piece and call
Matt Vemea [00:44:26] Yeah, I hope so. You know, I know there's a lot of guys out there that need it for sure, but I just want to understand. I'm grateful for you. You know, everything you done to to create this opportunity for us to get help. So thank you very much for that.
Dr. Matt Chalmers [00:44:37] Absolutely. Well, thanks, man. Well, like I said, I'll make sure that when we start setting this stuff up that, you know, you've got a spot on the board to talk to these guys and we'll get it all pushed through. But thank you so much for everything that you've done and rollout. We're going to go on, but thanks for being on.
Matt Vemea [00:44:51] Love it. Thank you.
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