A Guiding Light

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Fisherhouse1.jpg
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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is fisherhouse2.jpg
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.”

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is fisherhouse3.jpg

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
 

Let 2019 be the Year of Involvement

Let 2019 be the Year of Involvement

When our communications director asked if I wanted to make a few comments about the year 2018 in review and all that had been accomplished by Resurrecting Lives Foundation, I told her I would have to think about it. MANY things were accomplished, of course, due to the support of hundreds of volunteers, donors, and, of course, Veterans and their families:

• We continued to increase awareness regarding TBI diagnosis and treatment from coast to coast, literally – from LA, and the Milken Foundation brunch co-sponsored with the MVAT veterans’ non-profit in LA – to Quebec City and the NATO presentation for the Reserve Medical Officers.

• We established a newsletter which assisted on the internet and on Capitol Hill -bringing the voice of those who were struggling to eyes that could provide solutions in legislation and in communities.

• We collaborated with companies such as Cardinal Health and Honda of America and the Huntington Bank to develop strategies for veterans’ employment; not just hiring veterans, but full employment.

• We collaborated with the Ohio Diversity Council to provide employers with simple strategies for workplace adjustment, assisting long-term employment for veterans with TBI/PTSD.

• We welcomed a new Board member and several new Advisors. We did all that, and more, thanks to the compassionate generosity of supporters; our board; and especially our Veterans and their families.

But, to be honest, I do not want to talk about the ground that we have taken; I want to speak about the ground that lies before us. I do not want to look back, but forward. I want all of us connected to Resurrecting Lives Foundation to embrace the year ahead and its countless opportunities to take more ground; to discover more opportunities; to deliver more services; to resurrect more heroes; to educate the communities and the nation about America’s #1 greatest natural resource: our all-voluntary military members, Veterans and their families.

As Benjamin Franklin, founding father of our nation so aptly stated: Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.

Let 2019 be the year of involvement.
Over the past several years, with the support of our loyal patriots we have been involved in hundreds of presentations for TBI awareness; we taught employers, and health care providers, and community leaders and military officers and veterans and their families about diagnosing and treating TBI; we discussed necessary legislation with our lawmakers in Ohio and on Capitol Hill.
Now, in 2019, is the time for involvement. It is only through involvement – at your work place, your community, your hospitals, your schools, your places of worship – that all will learn about the reintegration struggles that exists for individuals and family members who offer their lives to protect our freedoms.

Encourage your workplace to employ veterans; to become involved in their training and adjustment to the civilian world. Form veterans support groups at your place of employment.

Make it a priority to learn about military culture and involve yourself in military celebrations on Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

Assist in your community with the reintegration of our new veterans and their families when they return home, or settle for the first time in a community post military service. Provide education on public transportation, schools, financial responsibility, childcare and health care. Remember, the majority of our young veterans entered the military directly from high school and they have not become familiar with these processes.

Establish fund raisers and sports events, events that involve family activities and offer chances for our veterans to become as integral a part of the civilian community as they were in the military community.

Write to your state and national lawmakers and request better health care for veterans, through the expansion of the Choice Act; better veteran employment opportunities through new legislation to replace the ailing HIRE Act; and better education for veterans through the inclusion of trade schools to enhance or teach new skills to the newly discharged military member.

Give of your time, talent, and treasure to veteran support groups. In 2019, RLF is planning our inaugural TBI Awareness Days at two community hospitals in central Ohio; your donations to our foundation can help to make that a reality. But your talent and time are so needed by veteran support groups in all communities across America- show that our veterans matter by giving of yourself.
2019 is the YEAR to become involved, to get things done; to take ground, before the distractions of another election year arise.
Look back for a moment, and be thankful for all that has been accomplished – Look forward for while and realize how your involvement can impact a community; restore a family; save a life. Tell- Teach – Involve.

With sincere appreciation for all the past support; and incredible anticipation of what is to come,

Chrisanne Gordon, MD
Founder, Resurrecting Lives Foundation

 

 

 

 

Thanks

Thanks

November is a time to remember all that we have to be thankful for. It is also the month we remember our veterans – men and women from all corners of the country who have committed their lives for a period of time in order to serve and protect. Some have given their lives; some return and continue to serve; some return and remember. All have given a part of themselves.

John F. Kennedy noted that, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” Resurrecting Lives Foundation expresses deep gratitude to all service members of all branches: we will never forget.
We are humbled by your commitments, and in awe of those who say, as our RLF ambassador Corey O’Brien says below, “I did my job.”

 

.

 

Shell Shock to Traumatic Brain Injury: what’s changed in the last 100 years?

Chrisanne Gordon, MD, Founder and Chair of Resurrecting Lives Foundation, and Brigadier General (Retired) Gerald Dieter Griffin, MD, PharmD, a member of the RLF Board of Advisers, presented “The Evolution of TBI Diagnosis, the Revolution of TBI Treatment” at the NATO Interallied Confederation of Medical Reserve Officers Summer Congress in August, 2018. This article is, in part, based on their presentation.

Sleeplessness. Blurry vision. Temporary loss of hearing, smell, and taste. Shivering. Loss of memory. These symptoms were exhibited by young men injured in blasts in 1914 and 1915, arising from “the effects of shell-shock,” according to Charles S. Myers, MD, Captain, Royal Army Medical Corps. Myers’ article, “A contribution to the study of shell shock,” published in the February 13, 1915 issue of The Lancet, was the first to use the term in the published medical literature.

On November 11, 2018, the world commemorates the Armistice that ended World War I, “the war to end all wars.” Over the last 100 years we have not, unfortunately, seen the end of war. We continue to see returning service members injured in horrific ways, not least of which is the often invisible wound of traumatic brain injury (TBI) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Injury and trauma from warfare have been documented since the early times of human history. But with the introduction of modern technological weapons during the first World War, the nature of that trauma has escalated, even while the science to diagnose those “invisible injuries” has continued to advance.

As noted by Dr. Gordon and BG (Ret.) Dr. Griffin, every conflict has its own injuries, illnesses, drugs, technologies, and reintegration policies. But survival wounds in the last century are clearly similar: “shell-shock” and traumatic war neurosis in World War I, battle fatigue in World War II, post-traumatic stress disorder in the Vietnam War, and traumatic brain injury in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)/ Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).

At the start of World War I, shelling and shrapnel brought a huge increase in head injuries to soldiers in the trenches. Said Britain’s The Illustrated War News on November 17, 1915, “Head-wounds have been more than usually numerous during the war, owing to the trench-fighting, and more than usually severe, owing to the extensive use of shrapnel. … Our Army has now followed the French by adopting steel helmets, calculated to stop shell-splinters and shrapnel. Even in cases of extreme risk, not only has death been avoided, but injuries have been confined to bruises or superficial wounds.”

This was an optimistic statement so early in the war. But officials were shocked and stymied by the head wounds. Initially thought to be physical injuries, or “commotional,” due to the commotion rocking the brain in the cranium, British soldiers who experienced these wounds received a uniform “wound stripe,” and eventually a war pension. But the symptoms – including trembling, headaches, tinnitus, confusion, dizziness, and sleep disturbances – started appearing in military members who were not directly in the line of the blasts. The diagnosis soon became a psychological one: neurasthenia, or a “nervous breakdown.” Removing the physical diagnosis in place of a psychological one meant the soldier received no “wound stripe,” no rehabilitation leave… and no war pension. The debate over whether “shell shock” was physical or psychological (or even both) continued for decades.

Therapy for those who survived head wounds ranged from rest, quiet, and nutrition, to the extremes of electro-therapy, and rehabilitation near the front, so that the recovering soldier could reacclimate to the environment of warfare.

Dr. Myers concluded that the symptoms he wrote about in the 1915 Lancet article cited above were likely due to hysteria. But soldiers who witnessed the damage of explosions knew that physical or psychological, the damage was real. Of the First Battle of Ypres, Lt. B. H. Waddy wrote in 1914, “My first bullets frightened me, while my first shells did not; but with the evidence now before my eyes that the latter possessed invisible powers of destruction as well as visible, there was born in me a fear, a hatred of shellfire stronger than any other I have ever experienced.” “B.H.Waddy: Survivor’s account of 2 battles,” by Waddy, Bentley Herbert. The Great War Archive, University of Oxford / Primary Contributor via First World War Poetry Digital Archive, accessed November 10, 2018, https://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit/gwa/document/8697.

Study of war trauma continued through the 20th century’s conflicts in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Psychological injuries, long-lasting post-concussive trauma, and PTSD have all gained the legitimacy of diagnosis; we continue to understand more and more about TBI.

Now, 100 years post-Armistice, over 3.7 million service personnel have been deployed to the war zone in Iraq and Afghanistan, many with multiple deployments. TBI has been estimated in nearly 20% of the veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and an estimated 30% have PTSD. And we now understand that most military-related TBI comes from blast exposure.

Due to the evolution of military technology, blasts and artillery cause exponentially more damage than in 1918. But also due to scientific advances and the evolution of scientific research, we can now identify changes in brain physiology at a cellular level; due to the evolution of newer diagnostic techniques, especially neuroradiology studies, we can now even look inside the brain.

Through the early 1970s, our diagnostic procedure for head wounds was largely the x-ray. Advances in computer science and medicine during the end of the 20th century brought us lightyears forward through various imaging techniques, including diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), which lets us see nerve tracts and the brain; neuroradiology now enables us to map the brain. RLF is proud to have supported the DTI research conducted under Michael L. Lipton, MD, PhD, at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, contributing to the body of evidence proving that blast waves themselves are a source of TBI in military personnel.

Today, devices the size of cell phones enable scans for TBI in combat, thus enabling treatment as quickly as possible. This evolution of diagnostics has given way to a revolution of treatment for brain specific injuries.

Biomarkers, or biological substances that can act as clues in the body, are being developed to detect the presence of TBI. Treatment in the immediate phase after TBI now provides damage control through procedures like immune therapy, temperature and volume therapies, and aggressive symptomatic care for the trauma of TBI. PTSD therapies include “exposure” therapy, or repeated exposure to the conditions of the event which caused the trauma to begin with – much like those WWI solders rehabilitating near the front – to cognitive therapy and psychopharmaceuticals. Mindfulness training, including meditation, is gaining ground as a positive and non-invasive means to recovery. Rehabilitation delivered through virtual reality, as the fledgling company Gray Matter Innovations focuses on, complements these approaches.

Progress in science and medicine since Armistice Day, 1918, has enabled a generation of brain-injured warriors to recover from an injury that only tens of years ago was thought not to be an injury at all. Still, not all those who suffer from TBI or PTSD have been diagnosed – the first step in recovery – and prompt diagnosis is best, since both TBI and PTSD are now wounds that can be healed.

RLF honors all military service members who put their lives on the line for our freedoms, and we advocate for continued advances in diagnosis and treatment for these invisible injuries – as well as for prevention of TBI with peace and understanding among all nations.

 

 

 

 

Sharing Conversations about TBI

To shine more light on the difficulties of diagnosis and treatment – and the hope of recovery – of traumatic brain injuries (TBI), RLF Founder and Chair Chrisanne Gordon, MD, has been holding conversations with a number of organizations in the last few months. She’s been discussing her book, Turn the Lights On!, and her personal journey of recovery from her own TBI.
In October, Dr. Gordon spoke with the delegates to the Ohio Convention of the Blue Star Mothers of America. All 15 Ohio Chapters were represented at the Columbus event, with an audience of about 50. The annual convention also features a Memorial service honoring the organization’s lost moms and veterans through the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In photo on left: Anne Parker, National President of the Blue Star Mothers, is surrounded by Ohio Convention delegates.
In the photo on the right are (left to right) Karen Stillwell, President, Department of Ohio; Dr. Gordon; and Brenda Russell, Past President of Department of Ohio.

In early November, Dr. Gordon spoke at her alma mater, Duquesne University, in a program sponsored by the school’s Office for Military and Veteran Students. An audience of about 30 students, faculty, and alumnae from the Rangos School of Health Sciences’ Department of Occupational Therapy and from the School of Law engaged in a lively discussion regarding TBI care as well as the implications for defending the veteran in criminal court.
Faculty members supporting the discussion included Dr. Jaime Munoz, the Occupational Therapy department chair, Daniel W. Kunz, JD, Adjunct Professor of Clinical Legal Education at the School of Law, and Don Accamando, D. Ed., Director of the Office for Military and Veteran Students and a retired US Air Force veteran.

Left to right in the photo: Daniel Kunz; Dr. Gordon; and Don Accamando.

 

One Hundred Years of the American Legion

By Ralph P. Bozella

RLF is fortunate to have as a partner in our war on military TBI The American Legion’s Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission and its TBI/PTSD Committee. Ralph P. Bozella, Chair of that Commission, advocate for veterans, and member of the RLF Board of Advisers, has written this piece for us, commemorating the centenary of the American Legion.

A century ago, at 11:11 a.m. on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the guns of the Allied Forces, including the doughboys of the USA, and the Central Powers led by Germany fell silent, and the awful conditions of trench warfare ended. These forces were mired in what was called the Great War and The War to End All Wars, but became historically to be known as World War One. As we now know this war did not end all wars, but led to a more horrific global conflict in World War Two, and other wars involving US forces to include Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Grenada, Gulf War One and the continuing War Against Terrorism which has been fought in Iraq and now in Afghanistan. Through the years the armistice of World War One has morphed into what we now celebrate as Veterans Day – a day to honor all those who have worn the uniform of the United States military forces.

The end of World War One, however, did bring about the beginnings of a most influential veteran service organization – The American Legion, as an American Expeditionary Force consisting of officers and enlisted men in Paris, France, organized as the first American Legion caucus.

One hundred years later The American Legion can proudly stand behind its accomplishments of advocating for creation of the U.S. Veterans Bureau, which became the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs under President Ronald Reagan in 1988. The Legion also can claim credit for drafting a document which as the GI Bill became law and can arguably be called the greatest piece of social legislation ever passed. When VA stated that Agent Orange was not the cause of cancer and other diseases in Vietnam veterans, The American Legion commissioned its own study from Columbia University to prove otherwise and the presumptive claims to Agent Orange related illnesses for Vietnam veterans was born. The American Legion has also led the fight for VA compensation for Gulf War One related illnesses and is now turning its sights to effects that military personnel are suffering due to toxins produced by the Burn Pits used on military bases today.

Along with advocating for veterans affected by environmental toxins, The American Legion is championing the signature wounds of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), through its Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation (VA&R) Commission which houses the Legion’s TBI/PTSD Committee. This committee studies the mental health issues of veterans and hosts seminars and publishes information on the subject. In 2012 The War Within: Treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Findings and Recommendations was published, followed by its latest publication on the subject, The Road Home. To view these booklets and other American Legion publications online please visit https://www.legion.org/publications
As World War One ended, The American Legion began it mission of advocating for veterans, national defense, Americanism and children and youth, and is still serving America in this capacity today. For more information about The American Legion, to include membership eligibility, please see https://www.legion.org/

Ralph Bozella, Chairman National Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission
The American Legion

Help RLF to Help Others

Despite snow, poor driving conditions, and the danger of excess, November is a generous time when we all show our appreciation for family, friends, and strangers. #GivingTuesday, an event that takes place on the heels of Thanksgiving and in the start-up of holiday shopping frenzy, began in 2012 as a collaborative way to raise the profile of nonprofits during the gift-giving season. This year, RLF will participate in #GivingTuesday, raising funds for our inaugural local community TBI awareness programs being planned for March, 2019 at medical centers in Central Ohio.

Spearheaded by two RLF Board members, Col. (Ret.) Owen Lee (USA, Medical Corps), MD, and Chris Brown, MD, MPH, the events will aim to increase awareness of TBI and of resources for TBI in two specific local communities. At Licking Memorial Hospital, Newark, Ohio, and Adena Health Care in Chilicothe, Ohio, the programs will include TBI/ PTSD screenings and educational sessions on TBI, providing resources to connect vets and their families to other local agencies.

Beyond #GivingTuesday, as you shop for groceries, party supplies, gifts, and clothing, you can provide our veterans’ programs with a percentage of your spending, at no cost to you. Shoppers in the Columbus, Ohio area can link their Kroger Rewards Card to RLF (we are organization 91686) and a percentage of your dollars spent will be donated to our programs. Or, if you are an Amazon shopper, enter the site through https://smile.amazon.com and choose Resurrecting Lives Foundation as your charity before you shop – Amazon will donate .05% of all your purchases to RLF.

And thank you to the most generous small town in America, Scopus, Missouri, who raised $8000 for RLF’s programs with a community fest in August. Read the whole story here to find out how even the chickens helped out!

 

 

RLF “Telehealth” Grant Continues to Enable Therapy

Technology plays a large role in daily life, and in the health setting it has long been an integral part of diagnosis. Through a grant from RLF, technology is now a cornerstone in therapy delivery for veterans with suspected TBI or PTSD at two universities in Ohio.

As we told you about in January and in May, programs in place at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) Speech and Hearing Clinic and at University of Akron (UA) School of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, are recruiting veteran students for no-cost comprehensive speech/ language/ cognitive evaluations and treatment plans. Both programs are using technology to deliver some services in part virtually, via “telehealth,” enabling the specialist and the student to link together where it might not be possible physically.

At UA, the Audiology and Speech Center continues to offer the Compensatory Cognitive Training (CCT) program to veterans within the community, including students. Four veterans have completed the program and several have said they would recommend it to other veterans, rating the attention and memory strategies provided in the program as “extremely helpful.” This program has been in use at several Veterans Administration Medical Centers (VAMC) for several years, but the UA implementation is the first in a university setting, and is enhanced by a “telehealth connection” between UA and the Cleveland VA Hospital, used as needed.

CCT focuses on enabling veterans to manage their fatigue, sleep problems, headaches, and tension; improve attention, concentration, and memory; and increase planning and problem solving abilities.

Faculty lead Angela Reif, PhD, CCC-SLP and clinical supervisor Janis Lorman, MA CCC S/A, are stepping up recruitment efforts for more veterans who would like to complete the program, speaking with veterans about CCT and the school’s free hearing services for student veterans at both a September UA football tailgating event (pictured below) in collaboration with campus military organizations including Student Veterans of America and American Legion Post 808, and at UA’s Veterans Day program.

Because this program is open to community members as well as students, Reif has addressed American Legion Post 808, sharing information related to the effects of concussion and TBI and how CCT can help. Recruitment efforts for student veterans and veterans within the community will continue, and speech services for veterans who would like to participate in cognitive training continues to be available.

At BGSU, where the program is offered with individually-tailored treatment including compensatory strategies to improve recall skills through multiple senses, technology in the form of notebook computers, whiteboards, and smartphones is used heavily for support and reminders. According to Donna Colcord, M.S., CCC-SLP, Clinic Director at the Bowling Green State University Speech and Hearing Clinic, two of the veteran students completed the program after making significant gains in their skills. An additional veteran continues this semester, and the team is gearing up to locate more veteran students to bring in for the spring semester.

Veterans at BGSU or UA, or throughout the Akron community, who are interested in exploring screenings and services, should contact the clinics through the links above.

 

Veteran’s Day 2018: “I did my job.”

Veteran’s Day 2018: “I did my job.”

Corey O’Brien, a US Army and Ohio National Guard veteran, was the featured speaker at the 2018 Cardinal Health Resurrecting Lives Foundation Golf Outing, where $40,000 was raised to support RLF programs and veterans with TBI or PTSD. To a crowd of 150 people, he spoke movingly about his service, his “invisible injuries,” and his recovery through a Transcendental Meditation program for veterans, enabled through RLF. O’Brien is a science teacher at Hamilton Township (Ohio) High School and the Purple Star Liaison for Hamilton local schools. He spent nine years in the National Guard, earned two degrees from Ohio State University, is a married father of five, and has two tours in Iraq behind him. Corey is a member of the Resurrecting Lives Foundation Board of Advisers.

In celebration of Veteran’s Day 2018, RLF is proud to share Corey’s speech.

 

 

I met Resurrecting Lives Foundation’s Dr. Gordon just over a year ago at the Dublin, Ohio, Memorial Day parade. If you’ve never been to the Dublin Memorial Day parade, it’s more of a procession; they toss a ceremonial wreath into the river, they have a 21-gun salute, guest speakers show up, and Gold Star family members give speeches.

At the 2017 event, Dr. Gordon gave a speech. It wasn’t a “let’s thank our veterans” type of speech. It was more of, “hey, we as a society have to do more for our veterans.” She went on to explain what she as a physician does for veterans. Instead of saying “thank you for your service,” she said we need to take care of our veterans, pointing out, “here’s an issue – let’s address it.” She really motivated me; she gave a speech that I felt was directed right at me. I’m kind of a wallflower. I don’t like to draw attention to myself. I’d rather hang out and be part of the background. But her speech was so moving that I felt compelled to go up and thank her for all that she has done. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for her moving speech and everything she’s done through the Resurrecting Lives Foundation.

Now, in order for you to really appreciate what she’s done for me and my family personally, I think it’s important for you to know where I’m coming from.

Military service runs in my family. When I say it runs in my family, my grandfather was a B-17 bomber pilot during World War II and Korea. He did 35 years of military service and finished out his career as a Lt. Colonel in the Pentagon. He dedicated a large portion of his life to military service, and he spent time all around the world. He finished his career as a JAG officer, and he was one of the most honorable people I’ve ever met in my life. He’s someone I want to emulate.

His son, my father, was a Marine during Vietnam. He did his time as a Marine, and he came back and he thought, I need something else- I want to do more. So, he switched from the Marine Corps to the Army. He became a Green Beret and joined Special Forces. As a Special Forces soldier, he did everything that was asked of him, and then he switched over to the Ohio Army National Guard, where he finished out his 12 years.

And then came me. I didn’t feel like the Air Force was for me. I didn’t feel like the Marine Corps was for me. I decided to join the Ohio Army National Guard; I did my nine years, and had two deployments to the Middle East.

I mentioned my grandfather. Anytime you walked into my grandfather’s home, right there in the living room, was a huge frame. Inside that frame were the discharge papers for our family members who had served during the Civil War.

When you add up all the military service just from my grandfather, myself, and my dad, we have 56 years of military service covering four wars. That’s just from three generations of the O’Brien family. But if you add in my uncles and my other grandfathers, and the rest of my family’s history, it goes all the way back to the Civil War. I’ve seen the documentation myself – I’ve seen the paperwork, I used to read it every time I went to my grandparents’ house. It’s something that I hold near and dear to my heart. It’s no surprise that I’m a high school teacher, but it’s kind of interesting that I’m not a social studies or a history teacher. My dad claims that he has the documentation showing our family has served going as far back as the Revolutionary War.

So, growing up as a kid, I felt like I knew I was going to go into service. There was no doubt in my mind that at some point in my life I was going to take the oath and enlist, and I was going to serve, and I was going to fight for the red, white, and blue.

My grandfather was an incredible man, my dad is an incredible man; I did my time, but I’m not a hero. I’m not standing up here in front of you today as this hero trying to proclaim, “I did all these great and wonderful things.” No; I did my job. I took my oath. I did as I was told. I followed orders. I did some interesting things while I was in Iraq.

My first deployment happened in 2003. It was unusual circumstances, unusual situation. I did a six-month mobilization, to do 24 days in Kuwait. Six months of my life in training to go to the desert, only to step foot in that country – Kuwait – for 24 days. I’m a combat engineer, I’m a bridge crew member, we like our explosives, we like to build things, we like to blow things up. Those 24 days, we learned a lot about what was happening in world affairs. What was interesting was they sent us home, back to the United States, without a bridge. They gave our bridge away. They didn’t let us go to Iraq. They didn’t let us do what we thought we were going to do. We were at our mobilization station in 2003, watching “shock and awe” happen, knowing that in a couple months we were going to be there, but we never made it. They sent us home instead.

Being a military guy who knew my family’s legacy and knowing I wanted to be part of a conflict if any conflict had come up, I came home feeling very unfulfilled. I felt like my life was lacking. I felt like a failure. I felt like I let down a lot of people.

And so when 2004 clicked over, there was another Ohio Army National Guard unit going to be deployed to Iraq. They were looking for volunteers. They didn’t have 100% of their troops, and said they were looking for volunteers. I had just married the most beautiful woman in the world, and I had to have a very hard conversation with her. I said, “Hey, there’s another unit that’s going to Iraq and I think I need to go.” And what an incredible woman – she said, “If you think this is what’s right for us, I support you.”
And so I went – I had just recently been married, and I went off to Iraq, and I actually lived in Iraq longer than we had lived in our new home. It was a difficult job.

I drove through the parking lot [here at the event]- I saw a lot of military plates, I saw somebody had a Ranger sticker; I saw some folks wearing Navy or Air Force gear; those folks know what I’m talking about when we talk about military deployments, military service: that not only do we call upon the service member but also on the service member’s family. You’ve got to keep that in mind. Because when someone comes home it’s not just the soldier you are going to have to take care of, it’s the soldier and their family.

But getting back to my time in Iraq in 2004-2005- being a combat engineer, one of the first things they said was, “Hey O’Brien, you’re E-5, you’re a Sergeant, you have to hold these UXOs.” If you don’t know what a UXO is, it’s an Unexploded Ordnance. They said, “We need somebody to take care of them.” I said, “Alright, sure- I’m your man. What happened to the last Sergeant who took care of these?” They said, “Well, he kind of had a nervous breakdown, didn’t like being around those things that go boom. So, you’re a late-comer, you joined us late, we think you’d be perfect for the job.”

Being the risk taker that I am, and an adrenaline junkie, I thought this was a great opportunity for me to learn about artillery shells. And just to go into some history here, back in 2003 when the United States invaded Iraq, and we made this big push to go for Baghdad, 3rd ID did not really worry about taking care of everything that they came across. The main goal was to get to Baghdad quick, fast, and in a hurry. In the meantime they left a lot of explosives laying around the country. My job was to clean it up.

I am standing if front of you today telling you in all seriousness, my job helped save American lives. I got rid of several thousand 155 artillery rounds typically used by bad guys to make IEDs. I got rid of a couple different warheads. I got rid of incendiary bombs, incendiary rockets, all the stuff that they kept on saving for us to transport for detonation. Being an engineer, we built a big blast pit, wired it up, and blew it in place. But again, I’m not a hero; I just did my job. They said, “Hey, these need to go,” and I made them disappear.

While I was deployed I lost some friends that were close to me. And I’m sure that some of you who served, you also know that pain that I’m talking about.

And I also want to let you know that PTSD is something that I not only saw in my grandfather, and saw in my father; I also found it in myself. It was a hard thing to adjust to.

Being a teacher, one of the things I like to do is try to educate others- I like to inform people of things they may not be aware of, or things they may not understand. So if I was trying to describe PTSD to you, here’s how I would describe it.

Imagine a nice clear glass of water. That nice clear glass of water- imagine it being filled to the very top. Imagine it looking very refreshing, very pure, very untouched. If you were to shine a light on that water, that light would go through the water; you’d be able to see it through the water.

Now imagine that same glass of water- take a black ink pen, snap it in half, and watch that ink drip in to that glass of water. That black ink is going to swirl around. It’s going to make that pureness disappear. It’s going to ruin that glass of water. It’s not going to make it appealing, it’s not going to make it as pure, it’s going to make it dark, it’s going to make it evil. If you take that same light and shine it on that ink-filled glass of water, that light is not going to shine through. The ink in the water makes that light disappear.

If you’ve never had PTSD, never been around someone who has PTSD, or you don’t know what PTSD is, number 1, it’s hard to talk about, and number 2, it’s difficult to admit that you have an issue, and number 3, going back to that glass of water- if that glass of water is ever stirred, that black ink is still going to swirl around, still absorb and take that light.

Some folks who have PTSD eliminate themselves from society. They step back; they like to be in a surrounding where they can control everything in their environment. A lot of veterans who have PTSD don’t like social atmospheres- they don’t like to be in the malls, they don’t like being around large groups of people. We feel most comfortable having our backs up against the wall, where we can see everything.

Now imagine combining PTSD with something as challenging as TBI – traumatic brain injury. Any time we talk about a traumatic brain injury, that could be something from a blast, it could be something from any kind of head trauma, any kind of concussion. Those who have had a TBI could have difficulties with concentration, memory, recollection, impulsiveness, and confusion. When you take those two things and add them together, it’s no surprise that you have a high suicide rate. It’s no surprise that you have a high divorce rate. It’s no surprise that we have a lot of veterans who are having trouble reintegrating into society and becoming functional, or being able to provide for their families that they, at one point in time, had to leave.

We all want to find out what happens when veterans come home; what happens with the veteran experience. Just to kind of give you a real quick visual, there are 10 people at this table; if you look at the number of tables we have, the current suicide rate among veterans and active duty right now is 22 veterans a day. Twenty-two veterans a day. What does that mean? Well, that would mean that every single one of you right now would take your own life within a matter of 8-10 days. Now take a look around this room. That is a lot of people taking their lives on a daily basis, within two weeks. So something has to be done; whatever we are doing right now isn’t working.

I’d like to point to Transcendental Meditation as a viable, functional option. And although it’s a viable and functional option – the VA doesn’t offer it right now. Instead, the VA is going to offer a type of antidepressant medication, which they can do for five cents a day. But a lot of people like myself- we turned down the medication. I was given certain skills: hypersensitivity, hyper-alertness, that kept me alive. I don’t want to take a magic pill and have that disappear. I want to still have those skills. I still want to be able to function. I still want to be able to react quickly when something happens instead of having my senses dulled. And every time a physician was trying to give me these antidepressants I would ask, “Hey, what are the long-term effects on my kidneys? What are the long-term effects on my liver?” And they couldn’t tell me. They said, “Oh, I’m sure you’ll be fine.” That’s not a risk I am willing to take. And so I tried to find another way to help myself.

My last deployment, I came back in 2005; I struggled with multiple different types of demons – trying to figure out how to function, how to work, how to survive. And it wasn’t until 2017 when I finally found a viable option that worked – and that viable option was Transcendental Meditation.

Now, in that meantime, my family suffered. I became a monster. I had a very short fuse. My temper was so intense that at times I scared myself. I found myself reacting to situations with violence. I found myself reacting to situations that if things had gone just a little bit differently, I might have ended up in jail. And I’m a high school science teacher.

Being a high school science teacher, I’m around a lot of students. I don’t know if you’ve been around a collection of 30-32 high school students; sometimes they are going to try your patience. Sometimes they are going to push you to your limits. I pulled out my hair so many times I don’t have any hair left.

My first week being a high school science teacher, I ended up breaking up two fights. The other teachers on the staff had never seen another teacher tackle a student that was throwing fists. They couldn’t believe how fast I had moved. They were impressed. I was worried I was going to lose my job.

I had one chucklehead in class who kept making jokes, wouldn’t get quiet, wouldn’t get quiet, wouldn’t get quiet. The last time I told him, “This is the last time I’m going to tell you to be quiet,” he opened up his mouth, challenging me. The next thing I know, it was raining papers in the classroom. Apparently, I had thrown the stack of papers I was passing out and I had leapt up on top of his lab table and I was six inches away from his face. When I had come to realize what had happened, his eyes were the size of softballs. He had never seen a teacher move that fast, and he wasn’t a problem for the rest of the year. And we talk to this day. “You remember that time you jumped up on top of my desk?” “Yes, sure. Never forget.”

You laugh, but for me it’s kind of a dark moment. I had slipped. I didn’t want to be that guy. But I also pushed that chucklehead closer to graduation; he was the first person in his family to graduate from high school.

But let’s talk about Transcendental Meditation.

Imagine your cell phone. Many of you have cell phones, you can relate to your cell phones. Many of you have low bars, you have poor service. You have very little memory. You have little data. Most of the time when you wake up the phone you’ll have multiple windows open and somebody tells you to search for something – you can’t do it. The phone becomes frustrating, becomes ineffective, and it doesn’t work.

Think of Transcendental Meditation this way – a person hands you a charger, with a password to high speed wi-fi. Now when you use that cell phone, you’re able to search for things, you’re able to guide through things, you’re able to search for information, and it’s useful and functional. You’re the cell phone in that example. Many of you wake up in the morning, you’re not fully charged. Many of you struggle with doing more tasks in a day than just one at a time. And Transcendental Meditation is something that, when you do it, you feel rested, you feel recharged, you’re able to concentrate on multiple things at once. Able to do more, and be more.

And, I owe all that, in part, to that chance meeting with Dr. Gordon, and the gentleman in the back corner, Mr. David Kidd. Mr. Dave Kidd is the person who taught me how to do Transcendental Meditation, how to meditate. And because of that meditation, I feel better. I look better. Well, we should scale that back. I mean meditation won’t fix ugly, ok – you’re not going to start meditating and start being attractive again. That won’t happen. And it won’t regrow hair. Your hair won’t come back (Corey’s balding and shaves his head). And David (Kidd), I’m going to have to point you out here, he’s been meditating 44 years, and we still share the same haircut (David Kidd is balding, too).

David, I owe you my life.

Since I started meditating, I’ve felt more rested; I can sleep better. I get more done at home, I get more done at work. I was actually talking to people- I was talking to my colleagues; up until that time I had been a ghost. I was able to concentrate, I was able to have quicker reactions. And I even started humming. I’m not usually a person who hums, but I guarantee you one thing: you don’t hum when you’re mad. Caught myself walking through the hallway and I’m humming a song and I was like, “Wow- I’m having a good day!” And those good days started to build. And when those good days start to build you start realizing, hey- it feels good to smile.

This is only something that happened a year ago. And within that year, I’m now a veteran who wants to help other veterans, and now I have the energy, I have the thoughts, I have the good ideas, I’m able to actually act on them.

I became human. I became human again. I came back from the dead. I was resurrected.

So when I told David, “I owe you my life,” Dr. Gordon, I owe you my life as well, you helped me be a better parent, a better teacher, a better father, a better husband (at least I want to think so! – I will have to talk to my wife at some point in time to find out if that’s true).

But my colleagues started recognizing changes in me as well. I was actually just recently given a Superintendent’s award in my district. My school is now considered a Purple Star Award school. The Ohio Department of Education made this award for military-friendly schools, and my school – Hamilton Township High School – was the first in the state to win the award. There are now 85 schools in the state of Ohio that are considered Purple Star schools, and other states are adopting our program. So, I kind of brag to say we are the first school in the nation to be considered a Purple Star Award school. I am trying to do more for our military families, I’m trying to do more for the veterans, I’m trying to do more for veterans’ families. And it’s all because of you folks right here, right now – hopefully you’re not falling asleep. I do that to my students.

But thank you – thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for being here today. Those of you who did the event last year- you helped pave the way for me to do Transcendental Meditation. You’re the reason why the program is able to exist. You’re the reason why this program is able to happen. You’re the reason why I was able to do Transcendental Meditation. Not only did you help me, but you helped 19 other veterans… and my father was one of them. I went through the program, I noticed a difference, I said, “Hey, Dad, this is something you gotta give a shot, you gotta give it a try.” Sure enough, he did – and he’s off 3 different types of medication because of it.

So I’m here right now in front of you, telling you, this is a real thing. This is something that gives people their lives back. This is something that helps us be more functional. This is something that helps us reintegrate.

You might be skeptical- that is fine. I’ll be more than happy to talk to you. I’ll be more than happy to guide you. But I just want to make sure one more time, to tell you from the bottom of my heart, thank you.