Addressing TBI: How to live after redeployment
March 21, 2013
FORT SILL, Okla. -- March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, and to raise awareness concerning diagnosis and treatment of this complex and sometimes confusing medical condition, the Cannoneer interviewed Dr. Jason Albano, clinical neuropsychologist at the Fort Sill Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic. This is the second part of a two-part series on TBI.
Cannoneer: How can the Soldiers, who are dealing with these issues post-deployment, get a handle on what is going on?
Albano: "All the elements that make them good Soldiers translate into making them good patients. It is all the same skills. Why do you practice or train so hard as a Soldier? So that when you are in a difficult situation you don't have to think about what to do, you just get through it. That's the whole idea of intense training.
"You as a Soldier need to do a form of intense training during post-deployment also. You have to put yourself number one. Practice basic self-care -- adequate sleep, good hygiene, regulate emotions, and attend to family and marital issues -- these are all of concern."
Cannoneer: Are all these issues related to concussions?
Albano: "The question to ask, when these things of life get out of balance is: Can they be attributed to multiple concussive events? It's certainly possible, without a doubt. A lot of times what people experience in combat is true and real, and it should never take away from their traumatic experiences. But, when you start looking at percentages, just the base rate numbers specifically related to concussions, the statistics don't always support the number of individuals identifying those symptoms."
Cannoneer: So are you saying that concussions don't cause these types of emotional problems?
Albano: "No, I'm saying that there are often other factors at play in their lives. It's easier for someone to say, "It's because of my concussion" that they are having marital discord or "Because of my concussion I don't want to do this or that anymore." And, that's not minimizing the true concussions, but you have to honestly ask the question "What other things might be at play in your life?" You need to take a satellite view of your situation from farther away, because if you look at it only through a microscope, you tend to focus only on the concussive events. There are often a lot of additional factors.
"You had three concussions within a year, that's probably it. But you also were in multiple, intense combat situations. You lost friends over there. You didn't sleep for a year. You lost family members back here while you were deployed. Your wife had a child you've never met. You've come back and now you hate your command. You're upset with doctors at the hospital who aren't listening to you tell them your problems and this is all hitting you at once.
"This is often why Soldiers volunteer for multiple deployments because they miss that camaraderie of their combat buddies. Nobody is going to understand what a Soldier is going through and how they feel better than a fellow Soldier, so this is why they want to go back."
Cannoneer: But no Soldier can stay in combat forever. What can those around them do to help whenever he or she comes home?
Albano: "As civilians we don't know what it's like to have been through the situations that a lot of Soldiers have experienced. But understanding as much as possible what an individual who is going through traumatic recall is experiencing will help. Information and education is power when it comes to family members. We can't put ourselves in their shoes, because we weren't there. We didn't experience those things. The worst thing you can say to them is 'I know what that's like,' to someone who has gone through that. For family members or people involved in the care of Soldiers outside of active duty, they need to educate themselves about the importance of recovery and different types of treatment. Also, learn how to help that person when they're experiencing traumatic recall, or when they are incredibly sleep-deprived. Do you keep pressuring them? Or, do you completely leave them alone and not say anything. So there's definitely help out there.
"You have got to treat the things that are bothering you. Like any wound that's left untreated, it gets worse. So that's what the concussion awareness is for. If nothing else, come in and get checked out. Get information on how to improve."
For more information on how families and friends can help the Soldiers they care about, go to The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center or DVBIC at http://www.dvbic.org . You will find information to help Soldiers, health care providers, primary care givers and definitely family members deal with these situations.