Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Real Battle - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury(TBI) Part 1 of 2 PTSD

This is part 1 of a 2 part blog dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD), and Traumatic Brain Injury(TBI). Two seperate medical issues, but are often dealt with the same by an uncaring & inept Army Medical Evaluation Board(MEB) and Physical Evaluation Board(PEB). First I will give a definition and symptons from Wikipedia.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to one or more traumatic events that threatened or caused grave physical harm. It is a severe and ongoing emotional reaction to an extreme psychological trauma. This stressor may involve someone's actual death, a threat to the patient's or someone else's life, serious physical injury, an unwanted sexual act, or a threat to physical or psychological integrity, overwhelming psychological defenses.

In some cases it can also be from profound psychological and emotional trauma, apart from any actual physical harm. Often, however, incidents involving both things are found to be the cause.

PTSD is a condition distinct from traumatic stress, which has less intensity and duration, and combat stress reaction, which is transitory. PTSD has also been recognized in the past as railway spine, stress syndrome, shell shock, battle fatigue, traumatic war neurosis, or post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSS).

Diagnostic symptoms include reexperience such as flashbacks and nightmares, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, increased arousal such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger and hypervigilance. Per definition, the symptoms last more than 6 months and cause significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of fuctioning (e.g. problems with work and relationships.)

The above was taken from Wikipedia, for more info gp to wikipedia.com and type in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. I felt it was important, to put a description and symptoms for readers who do not know what PTSD or who have never suffered from PTSD. Now I will go into how the Army medical systems deal with PTSD(or avoids the issue), and I will describe how the MEB/PEB also avoids the issues of PTSD, and in second part on TBI, I wll show the similarities, in the handling of these to very real but unseen war wounds.

In the military, there is still a stigmatism associated with PTSD, soldiers are often looked upon as being weak, and are expected to "Suck it up & drive on", I know, I was an Infantry Fire Team Leader, and I at times feel ashamed of myself for not being able to overcome my PTSD issues. In previous wars, PTSD was known as Shell Shock, Battle Fatigue, Combat Fatigue & Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome(PTSS). Often, soldiers suffering from these disorders, were thought of as "Gold Brickers", weak, cowards, etc. When in fact, they were suffering from very real and very hard to deal with mental and physical issues. Because it is an unseen war wound, it has a potential to be exploited, so naturally the Army assumes everyone is faking it.

While I was at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, recovering, rehabilitating and fighting the corrupt & inept MEB/PEB process. I was witness to many soldiers being misdiagnosed and discredited, in order to save the Army money. It is hard enough for a soldier to come forward about PTSD or the symptoms. At Walter Reed, the psychiatrists there would often diagnose these brave men and women with Bi-polar disorder(a pre-existing condition so the Army does not have to rate or compensate the soldiers for), or my personal favorite other psychological disorders with PTSD like conditions, also not rated, anxiety disorders, depression, PMS(yes I am serious about this), genetic disorders, substance abuse, the list goes on. Because if the shrinks diagnose you with PTSD, then it has to be rated on your MEB/PEB boards.

The Wounded Warriors at Walter Reed and other Army medical centers across the nation, are often frustrated and disheartened by this corrupt process. Suicides are way up for these Vets, I am researching that now, when I have exact figues I will put in future blog. The Army does not deal with the severe guilt, that medevac'd soldiers feel for leaving their brothers and sisters in arms, back still in harm's way. It can lead to a deep depression or suicide, more should be done for these brave combat Vets who get medevac'd out early.

I myself went through this process, it was the most humiliating experience I have ever gone through. When I finally went for help at Walter Reed, I was diagnosed with anxiety and other psychological disorders with PTSD like conditions, I asked the doctor, isn't that PTSD and he said no. Strange, I never had these disorders or problems before I went to Iraq. I suffer daily with having trouble getting to sleep, and when I do I keep waking through night jumping out of my bed, I suffer from night sweats, nightmares, severe anxiety attacks, & chest pains. I avoid friends and family, at times I don't leave my apartment, I have trouble working and going to work, I am on verge of losing my job. i have to fight of a depression everyday, I have had flashbacks, I have to sleep with a light on in next room, so when I wake up I know where I am. My relationships with my fiancee and friends and family suffers, I avoid crowds and do my shopping at 2am to avoid dealing with strangers. I have severe road rage when I am stuck in traffic(In Iraq if u get boxed in u are dead). Once the Army puts u out, they want nothing to do with u, my old unit B Company 1/69 Infantry wants nothing to do with me, I call for help with my benefits, and can not even get the time of day. Ok, enough rambling about me, just wanted to give u an idea of want Vets go through, it is different from person to person.

While at Walter Reed, a group of us tried to get changes made to the Medical Evaluation Board(MEB)/ Physical Evaluation Board(PEB). Basically we were stone walled by the Commanding General, in fact we were ordered not to bring it up in the townhall meetings, that he would have, to talk about everything but the real issues and problems facing the Wounded Warriors at Walter Reed.

While doing research for this blog, I found an interesting paper, written by Kathy A. Debar at the University Of Illinois at Springfield, which u may find interesting. Titled "To Hell And Back: Wounded Warriors Return Home to Fight Yet Another Battle". http://www.csuchico.edu/cjhp/5/2/058-066-debarr.pdf It is a real good read. It was published in the California Journal of Health Promotion 2007, Vol 5, Issue 2, 58-66. Kathy A. DeBarr, M.S., Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Springfield.

I hope u found this blog interesting, please feel free to sign up as a follower and leave your comments. "Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway." John Wayne.

Sgt Patrick M. McNally, U.S. Army, Medically Retired.

Test Blog - This is only a test, if it had been an actual...

Hello and welcome again to the Wounded Warrior Blog, just getting my feet wet here, I have never done any actual writing before, outside of college english courses, many, many moons ago. I am attempting to bring attention to the problems and issues facing many Wounded Warriors, returning from war, and finding the real fight has just begun. This is not a fight they should be fighting, they should be welcomed back and treated with respect and fairly compensated for their wounds and injuries. Some of these wounds can not be seen, such as PTSD(Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and TBI(Traumatic Brain Injury). Unfortunately, the U.S. Army is more concerned with saving money for "Beans & Bullets" and does everything possible to discredit these returning men & women, who have put their lives on the line to defend this great nation of ours. I will be telling many of these stories along with my own personal experiences, I will not be naming these brave men & women unless they ask me to include their names. I also want to say that this is not a bash of the medical professionals that daily strive to save lives and heal the returning Veterans, this is more on the administrative side, The MEB/PEB (Medical Evaluation Board/Physical Evaluation Board) of the US Army, a corrupt and inept system designed to frustrate, hamper and screw over the Wounded Warriors. This is just an intro blog, more to follow. "When you come up against trouble, it's never half as bad if you face up to it" John Wayne, A Great American