Over the last 36 months, according to the Department of Defense, more than 54,000 service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Additionally, reports indicate that approximately 750,000 veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts are struggling with service-related TBI and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a form of brain injury). Healing and recovery are possible for these veterans – but diagnosis comes first, and this is a difficult process that requires an increased awareness of what TBI looks like to healthcare providers and first responders, as well as employers, family members, friends, and community leaders. The fact that only 8-10% of all health care providers have training on TBI diagnosis and treatment certainly complicates the issue of rapid diagnosis and treatment.
Resurrecting Lives Foundation (RLF) was born in 2012 in order to drive advocacy and raise awareness for returning military members and veterans who have suffered from TBI. RLF founder Chrisanne Gordon, MD, has now published the story of her recovery from TBI – including the defining moment that launched her drive to change the system – in a new book, Turn the Lights On!, available through Amazon.
Researchers have now proven the link between TBI (a physical injury to the brain) and PTSD, (a chemical injury to the brain); these injuries share many of the same symptoms of hypervigilance, avoidance of persons and situation, isolation, and depression. This also complicates diagnosis. Dr. Gordon credits a young veteran with opening her eyes to this dilemma, and sparking the ember that eventually led to the foundation. Here’s an excerpt from her book.
While recovering from a TBI, it is difficult to become introspective. You spend so much time and energy just getting through the day’s reduced activities that there is no energy left for reflection. Nearly a decade later in my recovery I finally had the room for reflection and realized that my recovery was also my boot-camp for my work with veterans struggling with TBI.
Like the injury itself, the realization dawned on me rather abruptly while I was evaluating my first veteran at a VA outpatient clinic in Ohio. After requiring the young soldier to complete a computer-based, multiple-screen evaluation, I chose to take it too, out of curiosity. To my surprise, according to the VA program, I was diagnosed as having PTSD, not TBI. I related to my patient in that I shared many of his symptoms of hypervigilance, avoidance of crowds, lowered frustration threshold, and decreased tolerance to noise and light. I then explained that I sustained my injury while putting up Christmas lights, and his immediate reaction ultimately changed my life. I’ll never forget it.
No sooner had I muttered the words, “decorating the house for Christmas,” he seized my wrist, looked me squarely in the eye and proclaimed, “So what you mean, Doc, is that I’m not crazy!”
Wow! That hit me like a Humvee. Here, staring at my face for a reaction, was a young soldier who had survived serving two tours of duty in Iraq and eight IED explosions asking me — no, begging me – to legitimize his condition as a physical injury, not a mental illness. In that moment, I asked myself two questions: (1) just how many thousands of patients with brain injuries think they’re crazy? And (2) how can we, as physicians, correct this stigma of hopelessness?*
Read more of this riveting story of “hope, healing, and recovery” in order to raise your understanding of the symptoms, diagnosis, recovery, and support possible, especially for our veterans; an order placed here through Amazon Smile will return .05% of the purchase back to RLF.