Army veteran Patrick Skluzacek had persistent PTSD nightmares for nine years. His son's app NightWare has stopped them completely.
United States Army veteran Patrick Skluzacek returned from the war in Iraq in the mid-2000s. At first, life was pretty great. He had a welcome home party thrown in his honor every other day and was happy to be back home with his family after several months away. He even had a paid month off of work. However, the nightmares soon started, turning his entire life around. He was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and had recurring nightmares that haunted him for years. Observing the pain he was going through, Skluzacek's son Tyler Skluzacek decided to make an app that stopped his nightmares entirely, CNN reports.
"My dad and I never had much in common, he was the big trucks and NASCAR guy and I was the dork who played violin"— Tyler J. Skluzacek (@tjskluz) December 14, 2020
A fun interview with @alaaelassar on @cnn! https://t.co/PnKJ9vaeop
"I was just 13 when he came back from Iraq, but I knew he was a completely different person," Tyler, now much older, explained. "He used to be so active and happy. After the war, he was just depressed, lethargic, irritable, and the worst part is he wasn't sleeping. It was hard seeing my dad like that." Once the nightmares began, Skluzacek was scared to even close his eyes. He said, "[The nightmares] were just horrible, so vivid, I'd wake up thrashing and sweating. And Veterans Affairs didn't have a cure for it. They just had people with nightmares, people killing themselves, and they didn't understand why."
Thanks @NPR for the feature! A special thanks to all of my supporters who helped push my little #PTSD tech story (and product!) this far. https://t.co/ROFPswZcuC— Tyler J. Skluzacek (@tjskluz) December 7, 2020
Skluzacek served in the Army for 22 years. He retired in 2012 as a sergeant first class. Six years prior to his retirement, in 2006, he was deployed to Iraq where he was an Army convoy commander. He spent 12 months in two strongholds of the Iraqi insurgency, Fallujah and Ramadi, managing fuel deliveries. Once he had returned to the United States, the only way he could get any sleep at all was by drinking alcohol before going to bed. Over time, he began mixing alcohol and pills—anything that would get him to sleep. "I just kept drinking more and more," he shared. "It got to the point where when I woke up from a nightmare at 3 am, I'd just have another drink. It caught up with me really fast. I lost my job. And then I lost my wife, and then the alcohol got worse and I lost our home. I lost everything, really."
Iraq veteran Patrick Skluzacek had seen his life ruined by #PTSD nightmares. His son, Tyler, developed an #AppleWatch app to help break this cycle.https://t.co/CsxXJJ9VT3— The Mac Observer (@MacObserver) December 13, 2020
Unfortunately, the nightmares lasted almost a decade. That is until his son Tyler was able to create an app to stop them. He tested out different prototypes on Skluzacek with an Android phone and a Pebble watch until he perfected it. The veteran stated, "In that moment my entire life changed. It was literally night and day, all of a sudden, everything stopped. I was sleeping so much better. My now-wife tells me all the time, she'll feel me thrashing before hearing the watch buzz, and I'd go back to snoring. My appetite came back, I couldn't stop eating, so I gained back all the weight I lost from everything."
Genius!— Joanna Lamb Looby 🌎 (@joannalamblooby) December 13, 2020
Tyler Skluzacek’s dad has #PTSD, so he designed an app to battle the nightmares.
Sleep has been a joke for many in 2020. Welcome to our world, some of us have been afraid to sleep for years.
This will save lives. #Veterans #Survivors https://t.co/5Uu9sCKvzm
His son is incredibly proud of what he has been able to accomplish. "It was really heartwarming," Tyler said. "My dad and I never had much in common, he was the big trucks and NASCAR guy and I was the dork who played violin. But there are no words to describe the feeling to be able to help him in this way, so we became so much closer because of that. Helping someone that close to you is just an incredible thing to see." Now, he hopes to use the app to help others with the condition as well. The app, named NightWare, has been clinically evaluated and cleared by the FDA. It is built into the Apple Watch and serves as a prescription-only medical device for other war veterans. Tyler affirmed, "My goal was saving my father, so mission accomplished. Now my goal is helping as many people as possible, but even if it just helps one person, it will all be worth it."
The story of how @macalumni Tyler Skluzacek '16 designed a smartwatch app to help stop his dad's nightmares, from @NPR: https://t.co/zWUZY6oNul #heymac— Macalester College (@Macalester) December 7, 2020