YOUR HEALTH: Helping Gulf War veterans

MIAMI, Florida – Sgt. First Class Jimmy Arocho is a Gulf War veteran.

"I was seven months in the desert."

Shortly after coming home, his health took a turn for the worse.

"Full body pain, muscle and joint pain."

He's not alone.

"In 1990 and 91, we sent 800,000 U.S. troops to the Middle East to fight in the first Gulf War," explained Dr. Nancy Klimas, medical director of the Gulf War Illness program at the Veterans Administration in Miami and hospital director of the Institute for Neuro Immune Medicine at Nova Southeastern University.

Dr. Klimas says those soldiers were exposed to a number of chemical toxins including organophosphate in their uniforms.

"Out of 800,000 troops some 300,000 veterans are now ill 27 years later, so one in three came back ill and stayed that way."

The symptoms include severe fatigue, stomach problems and body aches just to name a few. One out of three soldiers who fought in operation desert storm are affected.

Dr. Klimas and her team at Nova Southeastern University and the Miami V.A. went to work to find a treatment for Gulf War illness and the debilitating symptoms.

They put study participants on bikes and measured their body's responses and found their systems were off balance.

"In this particular study we're using a biologic intervention," she said of one test underway.

She says the goal is a healthy homeostasis, bringing the immune, endocrine and autonomic nervous systems back in balance.

The study has moved to phase one in humans.

CAUSES:   Dr. Klimas says many U.S. troops that were sent to the Middle East to fight in the first Gulf War were exposed to toxicity in the environment.  "They were wearing pesticide impregnated uniforms which turned out to be very toxic and there were very toxic organophosphates.   Whenever the SCUD missiles went over and the chemical alarms went off they had to jump into a chemical protection suit which caused them to sauna in their organophosphate.   They were using DEET at a hundred percent which you can`t buy even eight percent now."   They were exposed to many other toxins such as depleted uranium through the armaments, and an untested anthrax vaccine.

Jimmy hopes this research will finally lead to some relief for his fellow soldiers.

"I really want to see an effective treatment across all of what is causing the Gulf War illness."

Despite his own pain, Jimmy travelled to Puerto Rico to help hurricane victims.

Once a soldier always a civil servant.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.