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Jack Sisson's TBI Blog

A hug is duct tape for the soul.

Just when you may have despaired of reading about Traumatic Brain Injury in the mainstream press, along comes USA Today with a brief but compelling piece headlined "Army explores issue of living wills as more return from war in comas":
A growing number of troops are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with severe brain damage, prompting the Army to examine whether living wills or other care directives from soldiers ought to be available to battlefield doctors.


From January 2003 through July, the Pentagon identified at least 250 troops who returned from war with head wounds that left them — at least initially — comatose or unable to care for themselves or respond to people. Brain injuries, most from roadside bombs, are the signature wound of the Iraq war.

The number is a small part of the 20,000 troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it is "unprecedented," says Dale Smith, professor of medical history at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md. "All of these (comatose) people died in former wars before they got home."
The article (as the headline implies) focuses mainly on the issue of living wills. But there's another piece, "Families bear catastrophic war wounds," to which the one above links, which treats the general issue of war-wrought TBI much more personally (emphasis added):
Army chaplain Kenneth Kaibel touched a cup of Communion wine to the lips of Spc. Ethan Biggers, who lay comatose at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. A drop slipped down his throat. The soldier gagged and coughed twice as his stepmother, Cheryl Biggers, cradled him ever more closely.

"That's all right," she whispered, her left hand gently supporting the base of his head. Depressions revealed where battlefield surgeons peeled back his scalp and removed large sections of skull to relieve swelling from a bullet fired by a sniper in Iraq in March.


Biggers is part of a small but growing number of catastrophically wounded casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan — many of whom would never have survived this long in previous wars.

According to the Pentagon, at least 250 soldiers and Marines have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with head wounds that left them — at least initially — comatose or unable to care for themselves.

"We all look at the amputees and say, 'God, they're really lucky,' " says Liza Biggers, 25, who left her career as a freelance artist to devote all her time to her brother.
Think this is just a side-issue of the whole "Should we be in Iraq?" dilemma -- something that will go away once we withdraw, whether it's next month, next year, or 10 years from now? Think again. The questions raised by these casualties -- and how we treat them, individually and as a society -- will be haunting us for decades to come.

This topic is so huge to us, we've been writing about it a lot at our TBI blog. Whenever we find developments we post them, like our recent post about new military TBI software.
You're right this problem isn't going to go away, and it's through blogs like these that awareness can be raised to help the survivors in the long-term.
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