The wearing of poppies to honor America’s war dead has origins that date back to WWI and a poem by John MaCrae (In Flanders Fields). More than a century later, most of us still associate the red flowers with Memorial Weekend and loss. Some of us even wear them as a sign of “remembrance”. But something society often fails to remember is that war takes its toll on veterans. And for some vets, the battle at home is the hardest fought.
According to the Department of Defense, from 2000-2017, more than 375K veterans have been diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury — 82.4% suffered from mild cases, 9.1% suffered from moderate cases and 1% suffered from severe cases. TBIs among veterans are generally caused by explosions or combat. But what exactly is a TBI?
Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI, is a stressful injury to the brain caused by an outward force, i.e. a blow to the head, violent movement of the head, etc. When these injuries occur, the brain is violently moved around in the skull causing damage to the brain and bodily functions. And, as odd as this may sound, not everyone realizes that they have a TBI even when their symptoms are chronic which is why awareness is so important.
If you or a loved one have experienced a head injury (in or out of military service) and you want to know more about TBIs, here are the most common symptoms:
- Seizures occur in many moderate to severe cases.
- Difficulty with relationships.
- Mood Swings & Personality Changes.
- Slurred Speech
- Motor Impairment.
If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, contact your doctor. A Traumatic Brain Injury can be easily diagnosed with medical testing, i.e. CAT scan, MRI, X-rays, etc.
Once you are diagnosed with a TBI, the next step is managing your condition. Medications and/or therapy may be required. In severe cases, a caregiver may also be needed. So, it’s important to ease back into your routine. Goals are good, but avoid pushing yourself too hard. Your body doesn’t need that added stress. And depending upon the severity of your injury, your new normal could be drastically different than life before your TBI. Give yourself time to mentally, physically and emotionally adjust to it. In fact, you might even consider getting a Service Dog. Many veterans who live with TBIs benefit from these furry friends and their companionship.
As this Memorial Day approaches, let’s all take a moment to reflect on what the day is actually about. Consider the lives lost and the families effected. Freedom is never free. It is hard earned. Our history is a timeline filled with the dates, statistics and facts. For some, the war does come home. They fight a battle, daily. There are no medals for their pain, frustration, loneliness, or perseverance. Nor do they expect them. But understanding goes a long way. Spread the word …
*Photo by Tony Liao on Unsplash