RLF in the Community

RLF in the Community

Focusing on TBI Awareness during the month of March, RLF’s Chrisanne Gordon, MD, will take to the road to share the story of her own TBI and recovery, as well as the scope of TBI and PTSD in our young veterans, via radio and television talk shows over the coming weeks:

Chrisanne Gordon, MD
  • Let’s Just Talk with Kathryn Raaker- LIVE / Saturday, March 2: 10:00 am Nationally syndicated radio show with three million listeners
  • Staying Young Radio / air date to be announced in March Nationally syndicated radio show that airs on over 40 stations across the country
  • MyND Talk radio with Dr. Pamela Brewer / air date to be announced in March Nationally syndicated 30-minute daily radio show and podcast
  • Cincinnati, Ohio: Monday, March 4: 9:15 am Good Morning Cincinnati at 9, on WKRC/ CBS 12
  • San Antonio, Texas: Monday, March 11 Daytime at 9, KABB/ Fox 29 from 9-10 am San Antonio Living, KABB/ Fox 29, from 10-11 am
  • Houston, Texas: Tuesday, March 12: 8:00 am Morning News Houston/ KRIV-TV Fox 26
  • Cleveland, Ohio: Monday March 25 Live on Lakeside, WKYC/ NBC 3, 11:05 am
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Wednesday April 10: 10:00 am Pittsburgh Now, WXPI/ NBC 11

In January, Dr. Gordon brought the story of veterans with TBI to a national discussion on internet radio’s The Frankie Boyer Show. Listen to the interview at this link on BizTalkRadio .

Local Ohio events

Participants in several recent local Ohio events heard about RLF and our work from Board member and secretary Paul Carlson. At both the Ohio Mid-Winter American Legion Conference in Columbus on January 26 and the Hamilton Township (Ohio) High School Military Appreciation Night on February 7, Carlson represented the organization as he met with and shared our mission and accomplishments. The Military Appreciation Night was arranged and hosted by Hamilton Township science teacher, Purple Star Liaison, and RLF veteran ambassador Corey O’Brien.

Invite RLF to your organization’s event

The Resurrecting Lives Foundation Speaker’s Bureau will open its doors in April. Board members and friends of RLF can bring our message of diagnosis, recovery, and hope to your organization. Watch our website for an announcement and future developments.

RLF Employment Initiative 2019

By Kevin Decot

Kevin Decot has joined RLF as our new Employment Director, managing the Foundation’s employment initiative. Decot recently retired from corporate America after spending 35 years in various leadership positions, including human resources, quality control and specification control.

I was asked recently why I joined RLF as the Employment Director. My response was simply, “I have a deep respect for our veterans and want to advocate for them.” My clinical experience in complementary medicine (i.e., Traditional Chinese Medicine) as well as human resources/ talent management provides me a unique opportunity to give back to our veteran community.

Partnering with RLF founder Chrisanne Gordon, MD, we have developed a “Re-integration Model” which will serve as RLF’s holistic approach to employment with a veteran-centric focus. This focus will be to establish community partners (and resources) that will deliver an integrated care model to our veterans. These components will include behavioral health, financial counseling, mind-body-soul therapies, community connectivity (via technology) and peer support.

Employment is an integral part in the reintegration process and helps to affirm a sense of mission. Therefore, we are collaborating with major employers such as Honda of America to provide employment opportunities to our veterans with TBI/PTSD barriers. We are excited and very encouraged by the many burgeoning relationships and collaborations in this important endeavor. Stay tuned for future updates!

March is Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Awareness Month

From the Board: Christopher Brown, MD, MPH, FACP, FNKF

Christopher Brown, MD, MPH, FACP, FNKF

Dr. Brown is a kidney specialist working at Adena Medical Center in Chillicothe, Ohio. He is a board member of the Isabelle Ridgeway Foundation and a former board member of the YNOTT foundation. He serves on the medical advisory board for the National Kidney Foundation as well as the advisory board of Lifeline of Ohio. He is a member of the Resurrecting Lives Foundation Board of Directors.

As a civilian, one can take for granted the connection between civilians and the military. Over the last few decades there has been an erosion of understanding of our civic responsibilities. One unique make up of our democratic republic is that the military is under civilian control. As such the citizens of this country have a unique responsibility for our military. Through our votes, we indirectly determine where and with whom our military will be engaged. We also indirectly become responsible for individuals when they return home.

Membership has its privileges… and its responsibilities. While I think that American citizens have taken generous advantage of the privileges of being Americans, I’m not certain that we have shouldered our responsibilities as citizens of this great republic. Oversight of the health of our veterans, ensuring that our representatives are accountable for the outcomes of our institutions, is one of our unique responsibilities.

As a member of a family with members who served in the military during times of war and peace, including members who served in World War II, Korean, Vietnam and the Gulf Wars, I have come to realize the importance of that culture and our responsibility to those who have given so much for our benefit.

While TBI in general has a very ancient history, with descriptions in ancient texts, the use of explosives has increased its prevalence during war. The signature wound for our recent conflicts and wars has become traumatic brain injury, or TBI. While obvious head wounds cause TBI, closed head injuries can lead to TBI that can be more subtle in onset, difficult to diagnose, and have tremendous impact on not only the soldier who suffered the injury, but also the family that he or she returns to.

Diagnosing TBI can be quite difficult because it can present in multiple different ways and may manifest itself later than the injury. It requires a level of suspicion in individuals exposed to certain conditions, with the most important and common in the military being blast injury likely from an IED. Signs and symptoms of TBI in veterans returning from a war zone include

  • Behavioral, mood or personality changes
  • Difficulty identifying, processing or describing emotions
  • Persistent headache

Once a TBI is suspected, the veteran should be sent for formal evaluation, which will include a medical interview and exam, and likely imaging. The imaging may or may not reveal an injury; similar to TBI in football players, the imaging changes may occur years after the actual injury. The following are some of the clinical testing for evaluating a veteran with a history of TBI:

  • Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to evaluate the working brain
  • Neuropsychological assessment to help plan rehabilitation
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging to evaluate important tracts in the brain

For those who receive a diagnosis of TBI, referral for appropriate resources is necessary. Support will depend on the severity of the injury and should include cognitive retraining and ongoing monitoring as necessary.

While TBI is a complex disease, with appropriate screening and resources this is a disease that can be managed.

March is TBI awareness month. Join RLF in increasing the awareness of this disorder that affects so many of our returning warriors. As citizens, we have a duty to ensure that the veterans of our conflicts and wars are cared for; to ensure that those who kept watch on our behalf receive the treatment for injuries sustained while keeping us safe.

Healing by Sharing the Pain

Healing by sharing the pain

Veteran Army Captain Emily Stehr has been a longtime supporter of Resurrecting Lives Foundation, having referred a number of veterans to RLF as they were returning to the US to be discharged from service. Because of these referrals, RLF has been able to assist their reintegration process, including enabling VA access. Likewise, she has spoken to veterans referred from RLF in order to share her knowledge and experiences. We are proud to help spread her message of hope.

Emily and Matt Stehr

Emily Stehr is a physical therapist at the VA Hospital at Fort Drum, New York. She finds great reward in guiding veterans to a fuller life through therapy.

She finds even greater reward in sharing her story of survival, although she rarely does this anymore. Army Captain (veteran) Emily Stehr, DPT, stationed with the 2nd Stryker Calvary Regiment in Iraq in 2008, fought her own internal war against suicide, and won.

She chose to live, and to share her story, and in doing so tore down barriers.

She came home post-deployment with PTSD and thought she could wait it out. “My husband was in Germany,” she said recently as she recounted her journey, “and I came home to Pennsylvania and spent time with my parents. I wasn’t sleeping, was having nightmares, and anger issues, but was still waiting it out – just thought I’d get it out of my system, like a poison. I knew how I felt but thought that it would be a switch that turned off, or a set of clothing I would change.”

Emily attended mandatory suicide prevention training immediately after her return from deployment, but the idea that this type of training will “fix” these destructive thoughts is incorrect. “It’s more complicated than that. I sat through the role-based training and thought that this is not working, because maybe I was struggling with suicidal ideation and waiting for the switch to flip. I understood the intent of the training, but it wasn’t working, not helping, and I hadn’t yet come to grips with my illness.”

Doing the everyday things, she was walking her cousin’s dog when she realized her illness was deep. Passing a cemetery, she envied the rest enjoyed by those buried there… and began to understand the scale of what she was facing.

Nevertheless, Emily returned to Germany, telling herself, “everything was fine; I had all my limbs, I was alive.” But still sleep eluded her, and she knew deep down that she wasn’t improving. One day, when she was back in the clinic as a PT, she read a report of a friend of a friend who was fatally injured on the battlefield. “The effect was cumulative,” she said, “and at that point, the façade that I was trying to hold up broke, shattered into a thousand pieces. I went to the hospital rather than kill myself.”

When faced with a choice, she chose hope, even if she felt little. She also chose to acknowledge that she had an illness – a medical problem – “rather than a sign of weakness, as is ingrained in our culture. I said to myself, ‘People here at the hospital think I’m sick – they are treating this as a disease.’ So I allowed myself to be sick.”

At Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, Emily’s medications were adjusted, sleep returned, and life began to get better. “They did a good job in treatment for me,” she says. Key for her was attending a group class during her hospitalization and meeting others who had similar experiences.

“The big switch was when I realized other people were going through the same thing. If you are suicidal, you have isolated yourself. But through this group class, I started to find that I could relate to others…. I came to understand that this was a disease. If this is a medical problem, then what’s the treatment? It’s the human story- connections.” Others had given her similar advice but hearing this from peers brought credibility.

That’s when her recovery started in earnest- her realization that she should tell her story so that others might learn from her experience.

Working with her chain of command and the Army News Service, Emily broke down a door with her personal story of suicidal ideations, hospitalization and recovery. She went to Washington, DC to testify for the Department of Defense Suicide Prevention Committee. Over time, she was featured in interviews ranging from Women’s Health Magazine to CBS Morning News. Her goal: to help remove the stigma about suicide; to encourage us as a society to talk about the problem as a medical issue and to point out the many paths to recovery; to “… get some good for others who are sick and desperate to come from my pain…” she said.

Most difficult was the memoir she wrote and self-published (Knife Allergy and Treatment Plan). “The memoir was difficult to write; after my first inpatient psychiatric hospitalization it sort of wrote itself. …There was almost a biological need to expel it, almost like an exorcism. The experience is still with me, I just needed to write it all down to jumpstart the healing process.”

Ultimately, she knew this was the right thing to do when she received thank-you emails from military members and veterans, and learned of others choosing to live because of her story.

Emily is quick to point out that the largest roadblock for recovery from PTSD or suicidal thoughts is the stigma. “I’m fortunate because my family and my husband are very supportive, and stood by me all the time,” she says. “As I became more alive (I had been a zombie), just the things people would say against me because I came out on suicide were unbelievable. Also, I think people think there’s a risk, if you’re coming out about having these type of thoughts, in the military, that your security clearance changes, that your jobs are impacted – but that’s not at all true, even in the macho military culture.”

You most certainly can get better if you are suffering from such darkness. But Emily notes, “You have to decide to get better, and put the work in. We are our own self-fulfilling prophecy. Either for PTSD or TBI, you may feel like recovery is not possible, but it is. If you are willing to put the work in, you will find improvements – not perfection, but ‘post-traumatic growth.’ My advice: find things that bring you joy, and give back to other people. These have been important for me.”

Emily’s career has encompassed PT for veterans with TBI as well as orthopedic PT. She’s an author of more than 50 other publications, compilations of “interesting facts.” She envisions a retirement of traveling with her husband and enjoying family.

But above all, Emily Stehr is a survivor, and a believer that we all help each other survive the wounds of war carried by so many.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

DVBIC’s A Head for the Future: resources outlining prevention and recovery from TBI

Stories can deliver powerful messages. Witness the video stories of our own RLF ambassadors Wendell Guillermo and Christopher Lawrence, or of Amanda Burrill or Luis Carlos Montalván or Bradley Lee – veterans all, and all afflicted with traumatic brain injury (TBI). Their brief but impactful stories talk about the pain and difficulty of finding diagnosis, and also of the hope and power of recovery. The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center’s (DVBIC) A Head for the Future website is a treasure trove of these inspiring stories.

A Head for the Future, launched in 2018, is DVBIC’s outreach campaign, providing to the military community some rich resources focused on TBI prevention, recognition, and recovery. DVBIC is a branch of the US Military Health System and functions as the Department of Defense’s center of excellence for TBI. Their mission: promote state-of-the-science care from point-of-injury to reintegration for service members, veterans, and their families to prevent and mitigate consequences of mild to severe TBI.

DVBIC manages care and support for veterans and family members at 22 different medical centers. But their newest venture, A Head for the Future, can reach the military – and non-military – community across the internet.

In addition to many inspiring video stories from veteran TBI champions, the site also concisely discusses how to recognize signs of a TBI and summarizes approaches to treatment and recovery. But perhaps most importantly, it reminds us of some very basic ways to prevent head injuries in non-combat situations through some brief video and print resources. Sign up for A Head for the Future’s newsletter.

TBI is all too common around the world. In addition to those who suffer from TBI because of combat-related incidents, in the US there are another 2.8 million TBI-related hospital visits annually. March is National TBI Awareness month, and this year March 13 will be marked as Brain Injury Awareness Day on Capitol Hill, featuring awareness events and a congressional briefing.

Resurrecting Lives Foundation salutes the work of DVBIC’s A Head for the Future team.







A Guiding Light

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Jenny Hall, left, Manager of Alaska Fisher House, with Billy Chisum, Cardinal Health Onsite Customer Representative and RLF veteran ambassador, with 10 Philips Wake-Up lights distributed to the Fisher House guest rooms in January.

At the 80 or so Fisher Houses near military and VA medical centers across the US and Europe, families can stay close to their military or veteran loved one during a hospitalization.  Since the beginnings of Fisher House Foundation in 1990, hundreds of families have benefited from this free, temporary housing, helping them to focus as a family on getting better.

At the Alaska Fisher House, located near Joint Base Elmendorf–Richardson in Anchorage, families and patients have the added challenge of light – or lack thereof.  Living in the far northern US means experiencing less than six hours of sunlight during the winter months. Science has shown the connection between lack of exposure to sunshine and poor human health, including vitamin D deficiencies, winter blues, and seasonal affective disorder.

Billy Chisum, Onsite Customer Service Representative at Elmendorf-Richardson for Cardinal Health, a 10-year Air Force veteran with three combat deployments behind him, and a Resurrecting Lives Foundation veteran ambassador, led the charge to bring therapy lights to the Alaska Fisher House.  Chisum himself benefited from light therapy provided by RLF and last year worked with RLF to distribute 20 lights to veterans in the Elmendorf-Richardson community.

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SrA Barbra Rivera

Earlier this year, through RLF and Cardinal Health, Chisum brought 10 more Philips lights to the Alaska Fisher House, to place in the guest bedrooms so that families can feel at their best.  “We are grateful to have received the lights provided by Cardinal Health as an amenity to provide Fisher House guests to use during their stay,” said Jenny Hall, Manager of the Alaska Fisher House.  “With the limited daylight during winter nights in Alaska, this is a perfect gift to offer our guests to aid in the healing and recovery process.”

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Last year’s veteran light recipients – including some recovering from TBI or PTSD – saw steady improvement in their moods by using the lights.  “I get a lot of positive feedback from [these] individuals,” said Chisum.  “Calmly waking up with a natural heart rate vs. an alarm clock, people seem to be in better moods than years past without the dawn simulator. Improvements to sleep/wake cycles were reported by many. People feel less groggy and ready to start the day more alert.”

RLF salutes Chisum, and many other Anchorage volunteers, who work with the veteran community to help those that suffer with PTSD and TBI.  Shown here are volunteers at several holiday fundraisers for Alaska Fisher House.

Turn the Lights On opens 2019 on nationally aired “The Frankie Boyer Show”

Turn the Lights On opens 2019 on nationally aired “The Frankie Boyer Show

Chrisanne Gordon, MD, founder and chair of Resurrecting Lives Foundation, brought the plight of veterans with TBI to a national discussion on internet radio’s The Frankie Boyer Show on January 10. The interview, focused on the hope of treatment for TBI and on what more the country can do for our veterans, opened a series of planned discussions on veterans with TBI or PTSD on a national scale. Listen to the interview on BizTalkRadio at https://archives.warpradio.com/btr/frankieboyer/011011.mp3.

See Dr. Gordon’s book tour schedule here.

Local Television Shows to Spotlight Dr. Gordon’s Book and Resurrecting Lives Foundation

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.

–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

Local television audiences in Cincinnati, San Antonio, Houston, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh will have the chance to hear about RLF Founder and Chair Dr. Chrisanne Gordon’s own boot-camp experience as she stops at select cities during March and April.

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. Dr. Gordon’s story of recovery from her own TBI – including the defining moment that launched her drive to change the system – is spelled out in her 2018 book, Turn the Lights On!, available through Amazon.

Over the last 48 months, according to the Department of Defense, more than 64,000 more 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.

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 a further excerpt from her book:

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.

Currently, Dr. Gordon’s spring television and radio appearances include:

Let’s Just Talk with Kathryn Raaker-LIVE / Saturday, March 2: 10:00 am
Nationally syndicated radio show, aired throughout OH, WV, PA, MD and more: 3,000,000 million listeners

Staying Young Radio / air date to be announced in March
Nationally syndicated radio show that airs on over 40 stations across the country

Cincinnati, Ohio: Monday, March 4: 9:15 am
Good Morning Cincinnati at 9, on WKRC/ CBS 12

San Antonio, Texas: Monday, March 11
Daytime at 9, KABB/ Fox 29 from 9-10 am
San Antonio Living, KABB/ Fox 29, from 10-11 am

Houston, Texas: Tuesday, March 12: 8:00 am
Morning News Houston/ KRIV-TV Fox 26

Cleveland, Ohio: Monday March 25
Live on Lakeside, WKYC/ NBC 3, 11:05 am

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Wednesday April 10: 10:00 am
Pittsburgh Now, WXPI/ NBC 11