A Two Part Series by Caroline Alexander. Originally appearing in National Geographic.
Today we’ll be looking at part one in the series.
Blast related TBI has been called the “signature” injury of the Afghan/Iraqi war. That means it’s a big deal, so everyone should sit up a listen. Besides that, did you see where that article came from? National Geographic. If it’s big enough that a generalist magazine that has a very large circulation is devoting not one but TWO articles to it… that means it’s a HUGE deal. So pay attention.
First of all, did you actually read it? Did you flip through the pictures of the masks these brave young men and women created to represent what they are going through? The themes I saw on them were: forced silence, confusion, pain, monsters/medical nightmares. What themes did you see? What can we as a society do to decrease these feelings in our combat veterans?
Second, did you listen to the veterans? What about their family members? What can we do? What can you do? What can I do?
I think the take home on this first part is to open our eyes and our hearts– not all wounds are visible. Especially with this latest war. If this is the “signature” injury should we assume any combat veteran that has been involved in a blast may have an issue like this? I would say a conservative “yes.” The powers that be are urging we health care providers to treat these blasts like concussions. And like one the veterans said, concussions are cumulative. There is no athletic trainer or team physician out there that would allow an athlete to sustain 300 concussions and not be checked out after EVERY SINGLE ONE. NFL players complain and retire themselves after 10-20. Did you hear the veteran say that? 300 blasts, and “we thought they weren’t dangerous, so we didn’t report them.” I would go so far as to call that an epidemic and unacceptable care for our nation’s finest.
So I’ll ask again, what are we doing about this?
We’ll visit the second article tomorrow, so stay tuned.