Let Us Turn the Lights on for TBI
by Gregory Welteroth, Jr.
From Turn the Lights On! A Physician’s Personal Journey from the Darkness of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) to Hope, Healing, and Recovery, by Chrisanne Gordon, MD, and Andrew Miller, Corpus Callosum Creations, Ltd., 2018.
Imagine a room that you know like the back of your hand. A room that you designed, decorated and have lived in for much of your life. A room that is safe and brings you comfort, a room that is truly yours. Now stand in the doorway, turn off the lights and walk inside. At some point you will harmlessly bump into something, which at first will be more annoying than anything else, but as you continue to walk around bumping into more and more things the room will become disheveled and your frustration will build. Your instincts will eventually guide you towards the door and the comfort of the light. Yet, in this room the switch is broken and the door is shut. You try not to panic as you have many other rooms you can access, but you know that life will bring you back into this room over and over again and the struggle will ensue as you attempt to turn on the light.
This simple and alarming scenario provides a glimpse into the daily struggles of those of us living with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Invisible tears within the very fabric of our consciousness that wreak havoc not only on our mind, body, and soul, but also on those people closest to us. Invisible wound with many causes, a TBI does not discriminate by age, gender, ethnicity or background. Instead, they often lay dormant for months, if not years, before taking effect. Once they do, they take hold of anyone unfortunate enough to be in their path. When present, TBI are undoubtedly one of the most devastating disorders a person and their family can face given how complex and misunderstood it is.
The scenario portrayed above was shared with me by Dr. Chrisanne Gordon, shortly after we first met in the spring of 2012. Dr. Gordon was just forming the Resurrecting Lives Foundation and my family was exploring ways in which we could do our part in supporting military veterans and their families. From the very first conversation, Dr. Gordon’s passion, purity, and purpose shot across the phone like a lightning bolt energizing everyone in earshot. It was undeniable that she was not simply looking to make a difference; she was devoted to creating a positively disruptive change in the lives of our nation’s greatest heroes: our soldiers and veterans. She had the experience, the facts, and the drive; but most importantly she had the guts to put it all on the line for the greater good.
All she was missing was the public spotlight to shine on these inconvenient truths surrounding TBI and the systems tasked with their care. Truths that, if the public were given a choice about, few would find acceptable for our veterans, let alone any loved ones. Awoken to the truth, my family and many others now stand in support of Dr. Gordon and the Resurrecting Lives Foundation in their mission to bring awareness, treatment, employment, hope, and ultimately recovery to the hundreds of thousands of military veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan who suffer from TBI and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
To no one’s surprise, Dr. Gordon’s tenacity and charm opened one door after another, and her selfless advocacy and warrior spirit inspire everyone she meets. Whether in the halls of Congress or the boardrooms of corporate America, Dr. Gordon makes her mission clear and settles for nothing less than what our veterans deserve – peace. A peace that we owe to those who have sacrificed so very much, and a peace that is truly within our ability to give. If you agree, the question then becomes how one person, one group, or one community can make a difference in something that few can even see.
I believe it begins with the understanding that our freedom is not free, and every day which our brave men and women are deployed abroad they are doing so not only to protect our country. These heroes are doing this job for us, our values, and the freedom to live the lives we choose with the ones we love. They place duty ahead of desire and they do so for us all. Yet, when faced with repaying our debt to these men and women who may have suffered TBI or PTSD, we haven’t put duty first; as a result, few veterans are provided the solutions and support they deserve. This has led to a spike in veteran homelessness, unemployment, alcoholism, and tragically, suicide… all of which are unacceptable in this age of abundance.
I believe the solution has to be bigger than the problem, and in the case of TBI the solution rests within society itself. We must embrace a culture of positive disruption, of radical research and innovation such as Dr. Gordon represents. Because in this case, on this topic, there should be no stone left unturned, no strategy untried, and no care given without the highest consideration of what we are fighting for – our nation’s future and the repayment of a debt that will never be called. We owe it to our veterans and ourselves to stand together in the fight against TBI; to bring the injury and the injured out of the shadows and into the light. We have the power to overcome this enemy; we have the resources to improve these lives; we simply need the courage to stand up for those who stood for us and all we hold dear. Let us turn the lights on for TBI and let the light of change be everlasting.
Gregory Welteroth Jr. and the Welteroth Family have been leading efforts to care for wounded veterans for years through their philanthropy and direct action. Gregory Welteroth, Jr. is the President of Gregory Welteroth Advertising.