The veteran leaves his home to run a quick errand to the grocery store. He jumps into his vehicle and starts heading down the road. About two miles from home his mind goes blank. The veteran has forgotten where he was going. The veteran starts worrying, forgetting where he is and how he got there. As the veteran starts to go into panic mode, his phone rings. On the other side is his wife, reminding him to pick up milk at the grocery store. He frantically writes down his destination on his dri-erase board so as not to forget again.
The phone ringing is no coincidence. It is an action from a worried and caring wife looking after her husband who sustained a severe head injury over in Afghanistan from an improvised explosive device. Returning veterans suffering from brain injuries from these devices need specialized care from experienced doctors and infinite support from family and friends.
Traumatic brain injury, also known as TBI, develops when sudden trauma causes damage to the brain. TBI is a result of an object abruptly and violently hitting the head, or when an object pierces the skull and damages brain tissue. Symptoms of TBI, depending on the extent of damage to the brain, can range from mild, moderate, or severe. TBI can result in short or long term problems with daily activities and living such as school, work, or running basic errands.
Many symptoms of TBI deal with the speaking and thinking process of the brain. The veteran can experience mild to severe headaches; difficulty concentrating on tasks; slowness in thinking, speaking, or reading, and getting lost or easily confused. Signs and symptoms can be subtle and the veteran may look fine even though they act and feel differently. The functional changes that could result from TBI are thinking, sensation, language, and emotion.
Among surviving service members of Iraq and Afghanistan, TBI appears to account for a larger extent of casualties than in other recent U.S. wars. According to the United States Institute of Surgical Research, “approximately 22 percent of wounded service members from Iraq and Afghanistan who have transited through Landstuhl Regional Medical Center have had injuries to the head area.” The true magnitude of these wounds is probably higher because some closed brain injuries are not diagnosed in a timely manner.
Body armor and Kevlar helmets shield the service member from bullets and shrapnel and has effectively improved the overall survival rate, but the helmet does not protect the face. The helmet also does not protect the wearer against the concussion of a blast. Most brain injuries are produced by improvised explosive devices in which the pressure shifts and causes concussions or contusions.
When U.S. service members in Iraq and Afghanistan receive serious brain injuries, they immediately receive medical care on the battlefield and are then medically evacuated to support hospitals for further treatment and stabilization. Depending on the severity and once stabilized, service members are then transported to one of eight participating U.S. hospitals for further assessment and treatment.
Recovering from a traumatic brain injury can complicate the rehabilitation process because the brain injury affects mood and cognitive function. Service members with TBI may take longer to recover and overcome the lingering effects than recovering from other wounds. The problem with TBI is that it cannot be seen by the untrained eye. Unlike other wounds, service members’ personalities are not the same after a traumatic brain injury and they may never be the same. Not all combat wounds are visible.
For more information about traumatic brain injuries, these sights could be of some use: