Traumatic Brain Injury is a hell of a scary thing. But it really wasn’t even thought of in the beginning of the war, the invasion and the year or two after. And unfortunately, for a lot of troops this term didn’t even come into play until it was to late. The commanders, the doctors, everyone, just weren’t prepared to deal with the type of head injuries that were coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan. What it boiled down to was if you weren’t bleeding then you weren’t hurt.
Im sure when it happened, it just kinda started, 2010 when I went to AFghanistan, because I didn’t hear about it in Iraq in 07, 08 and damn sure not in 03, but they started giving head trauma a number, Grade I, II, and III. Grade I being the mildest and grade III being the worst. If you had a level I you couldn’t go outside the wire for 24/48 hours. If it was grade III it was 7 days. Now in theory this sounds like it might be an ok plan. But…..based off my experience and the “doctor” who was assigned to my battalion in Afghanistan, she had no business grading any type of Traumatic Brain Injury let alone trying to diagnose one. I Found out later she was a damn dermatologist for christ sake. Now I understand you can’t have a neurologist at every Forward Operating Base (FOB) but we had a level III Army trauma Center there which could have easily done more test on EVERYONE hit by IED’s. Even small IED’s, a measly 5 lbs of explosives will completely destroy a humvee. What do you think that will do to your brain?
Yes we wear helmets, yes they have gotten better since the beginning of the war, but they can’t really protect you from an explosion. The blast goes everywhere, your head goes up, down, to side, your brain slams inside your skull. In my battalion, on my last go round, we had the three strike rule, if you were in or around an IED blast 3 times, you were out. You weren’t allowed to go out again. In theory this sounds like a good plan, and trust me I understand the man power issue more than most (having to help build and structure a battalion to go to war). But research has already shown that after suffering a bad concussion, a TBI, you are more susceptible to more, basically means even less trauma could give you a worse TBI. So you could get a grade I or your first IED strike but getting hit again at the same level or even less could push you to a grade II or III. Again, the adage of if your not bleeding (on the outside) your ok. We destroyed Marines and Soldiers and didn’t even know it.
Take me for example, I lost consciousness on numerous occasions from different blasts in different years and spread out. But now, like I’ve said in previous posts, I can’t remember shit. I lose my train of thought during the most mundane conversations, I forget what I walked into a room for, hell Ive forgotten where I’m at for gods sake.
I will say its gotten better, the treatment and the help, but its still a huge ass pain to try and get help. I can’t imagine what its like for our junior troops. I can’t say what they are doing in country now, i haven’t been back since 2010. But I hope its better than before….
So it seems there is a public hearing in Philadelphia today to discuss changing PTSD to PTSI. They are pondering whether changing it from ‘disorder’ to ‘injury’ will remove some of the stigma and open soldiers up to getting treatment. While this is a valiant effort to persuade more soldiers get the help they need, Shakespeare’s quote comes to mind, “A rose, by any other name…”.
Changing the name of PTSD is not going to get soldiers to seek treatment. Far too many soldiers already avoid going to sick call (the military’s version of an urgent care, same day appointments for medical treatment) because they fear being labeled as malingering or somehow not as worthy a soldier as their peers. Too often they wait to seek treatment until what was a minor problem has become a major issue. Even when they do seek treatment, more often than not they are met with nothing more than a prescription to treat the symptoms rather than exploration of the cause.
Rather than changing the name, what needs to occur is a change in mentality among the military’s leadership. You hear far too many stories of soldiers who suddenly went from super-troop to rag-bag in the eyes of their commanders simply because of they chose to seek treatment and were diagnosed with PTSD and that is where the stigma originates.
For those of us with PTSD, it is not something we chose. We are not automatically weaker than our brothers and sisters. Is it an injury? Yes. Studies have shown that PTSD causes physiological changes in our brains. We process things differently than we did before this came into our lives. Our command wouldn’t treat a soldier differently who was physically injured in combat but could still perform his job, so why are we being treated like lepers simply because of what is essentially a brain ‘injury’ which in and of itself causes a ‘disorder’.
Over the past century, the military has had to integrate several demographics into their ranks; first african americans, then women, and most recently openly gay soldiers. The integrations were never smooth, they were often met with personal bias and bigotry. Perhaps what these people need to figure out is how to force the military to accept and treat equally those service members with unseen disabilities. Those who suffer the effects of PTSD and/or TBI. That is the true way to remove the stigma of seeking treatment for PTSD, not simply changing the name.
Do you think changing the name from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to Post Traumatic Stress Injury will make a difference? If not, what would help encourage soldiers to seek treatment?
As you can see from my profile, I suffer from PTSD, TBI and a GSW. I am only going to talk about the TBI right now. M graciously asked me to be apart of this awesome blog and I jumped at the chance, to try and get people to understand what we go through. This is a challenge that I’m more than happy to accept…even if i can’t remember what the hell I’m doing half the time.
“Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a non degenerative, non congenital insult to the brain from an external mechanical force, possibly leading to permanent or temporary impairment of cognitive, physical, and psychosocial functions, with an associated diminished or altered state of consciousness.
The definition of TBI has not been consistent and tends to vary according to specialties and circumstances. Often, the term brain injury is used synonymously with head injury, which may not be associated with neurologic deficits. The definition also has been problematic with variations in inclusion criteria” http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/326510-overview
This is the basic nonsense that I have heard every time I have gone to see a doctor. Basically what it means is its not a disease, you don’t get it like a cold and supposedly it doesn’t worse (horses shit) and they can’t do really tell you have it until you die. If you have followed the NFL at all you will see the same basic functions, in the fact that you can not truly test for a Traumatic Brain Injury or the most common theme the “concussion” until you are dead. The most recent example of this in the NFL is Travis Henry and quite possibly Junior Seau, which they aren’t sure about yet.
But most Vets with multiple blast exposures exhibit the same symptoms NFL players with multipleconcussions do. Horrible headaches, memory loss, motor function loss, sleep loss and several other symptoms. I can attest to all of those. The headaches I have are debilitating, memory loss is ridiculous; I walk into a room and forget why I’m there. I won’t tell you how many times that i have left my keys in the ignition and the truck running at work, only to come out at lunch and realize what I did.
The worst part of TBI at least for me is the headaches and the memory loss. The headaches hurt like hell, and when i get them, if i do not catch them in time i have to waste half a day in the ER waiting on a shot to make it go away. The memory loss does not physically hurt, but its extremely unnerving (which doesn’t help with PTSD) and very frustrating. I have forgotten numerous “special” things I have done for my wife over the years, i.e. when i have given her a piece of jewelry or something like that and obviously that sucks. Most people would say I do that all the time…but most have some sort of memory of the event, a snippet here or there, for me, its gone. All of it, nothing there. I will pose this scenario to you, and let you dwell on it. This is my life and what i have had to deal with for the last 8 years, and its only gotten worse, after each successive blast exposure. Walk into a bathroom in gas station, or any where for that matter, or go somewhere where you can not see the outside, walk out and have no idea where you are or how you got there….tell me how you would feel. That’s half the reason I stay in basement, or carried a gun for so long. Being scared out of your mind or thinking about being scared out of your mind, because you don’t know the next time its going to happen is….debilitating. Think about that…till next time.