Last week Amber Wandtke was a semi-finalist at the Mrs. International 2013 Pageant in Skokie.
This week the Naval Petty Officer First Class is still using her beauty....to fight for a Chicago pioneered treatment that for an illness that's struck both her and her husband: PTSD.
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"My mission," says the current Mrs. Virginia International "is to use this crown and sash for the millions with this disorder. I know personally just how horrible it is."
The beauty queen first experienced that horror when her husband Nick, an Army veteran of Afghanistan, was medically discharged with PTSD in 2010. "He came back unable to sleep, with terrible nightmares, and attacks of being unable to breathe. It strained our marriage," she says.
As Amber helped her husband through his long recovery, she discovered that she had also been fighting the symptoms of PTSD most of her life. "I had a tremendously challenging childhood and a very painful divorce," she says. "Who knew those battlegrounds had caused my years of fear, anxiety and sleep difficulties?"
As Mrs. Virginia International for the last five months, Amber has met with the state's active duty soldiers, veterans, and civilians with PTSD. Now she wants to carry that battle around the world.
On July 19-20, she competed against 75 other contestants worldwide for the title of Mrs. International at the Northshore Center for the Performing Arts. The 24-year-old tradition honors married women 21-54.
"I want the world to know that PTSD strikes more than just soldiers," says the Naval Petty Officer First Class. "And I want more victims to know about the Stellate Ganglion Block to treat it."
A Stellate Ganglion Block is a neck injection that provides rapid relief of PTSD's symptoms. The treatment, pioneered by Hoffman Estates pain specialist Dr. Eugene Lipov, MD, was recently featured in Time Magazine. The physician's positive results have been published in Military Medicine and successfully replicated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Naval Medical Center San Diego, and other medical centers nationwide. Those studies have shown about 75% of PTSD sufferers report relief within 30 minutes following their injections. Studies suggest that injection numbs signals which normally travel to the brainstem and brain and contribute to the symptoms of PTSD.
"When I first heard about the Stellate Ganglion Block," says Mrs. Wandtke, "it just blew my mind! It was so unique and so new! I wondered why I hadn't heard of it before."
Last month Amber became the National Spokesperson for Chicago Medical Innovations, a local organization dedicated to studying this new treatment. "Now," she says, "I have a once in a lifetime opportunity to spread the word."
"We couldn't have a better partner in fighting this condition," says Dr. Lipov. "Amber's not just a beauty queen with a major platform, she knows first-hand how devastating PTSD is."Dr. Lipov is founder of Advanced Pain Centers in Hoffman Estates and Oak Brook,
Ironically in the Mrs. International Pageant, husbands play a critical role. During the evening wear competition, Nick accompanied Amber onstage..
"That seemed so right to me," says Amber, "because PTSD isn't just my cause, it's our cause."
Anyone who wants more information about the Stellate Ganglion Block can call Advanced Pain Centers at 847-608-6620 (www.advancedpaincenters.org)