Thursday, September 24, 2015

My experience with Traumatic Brain Injury - Personal Account

It has been quite a month. I have been in contact with some of my Marines and learned of deaths within the platoon that i had not known about. I have also completed nearly one year of emdr therapy. This type of therapy can be highly effective for veterans with PTSD. I plan to write about my experiences with EMDR in the future. What I want to focus on specificially though, is the occurance of TBI with the veteran population.

I have had a few injuries during my service as an active duty infantry Marine. My MOS in the Marine Corps was 0351. The number 0351 represents the title "Assaultman." Assaultmen have a primary weapons mastery of the MK153 assault rocket launcher. This weapon system is shoulder launched, has mutiple target applications such as armored vechicles, main battle tanks, machine gun bunkers and can even destroy an entire building. There are various munitions for this rocket launcher that are best suited for the type of target to be eliminated. In my course of service, I have fired hundreds of these ballastic rockets.

I operated the MK-153 83mm SMAW rocket launcher system

It is important to note the dangers of launching rockets from one's shoulder. The primary danger involves a backblast area of 90 meters that extends in a 90 degree angle from the back of the weapon system. If friendlies are within 50 meters of that danger zone, they could be vaporized into pink mist. The blast kicks up sand and gravel that likey flies right into the gunner's face. More so, is the sound and explosive pressure that this rocket launcher creates. The MK153 SMAW rocket launcher is the loudest organic weapon on the battlefield. Organic means that it can be carried and deployed by one Marine. The meaured sound level is approximately 100 decibles, Loud enough to blow the ear drum out of an ear canal.

I received a what is called a moderate TBI or traumatic brain injury while firing this rocket system in 1999. During launch the weapon malfunctioned due to overpressure within the breach of the launch tube. The weapon fragmented on my shoulder while my eye was still pressed firmly into the scope. My eye was barely saved by way of its position but my right eye suffered from concussion blast eye fractures. I lost conciousness and woke up with burnin hot shrapnel in my face and the back of my head. I had a large bump on the back off my head that had superficial gas burns and more slivers of metal and fiberglass in it.

Some of the symptoms I have been dealing with over the past 20 years are:

  • Unequal pupil size dilation (though not constant) Blurred vision, spots of color, floaters, dark spots.
  • Disorientation: Where am I, how did i get there.
  • Seizures: I see spots of light during times of stress, lose control of my right arm, numbness..tingling on the the right side of my body. Fits and twitches.
  • Nasuea and difficulty with motor coordination
  • Speech problems, which have been address by a speech therapy program.
  • Cognitive difficulty; I have moderate difficulty with memory, attention and just basic thinking. Reading comprehension has been difficult because I can't focus and retain knowledge like I used to. I also have difficulty finding the appropriate to say in conversation which makes thinking on the fly difficult. My speech is often slurred, or not understandable. I have to repeat things two to three times quite often.

I am also being treated for PTSD related to this and other life threatning events such as a helicopter crash, war, and participating in special operations missions before the start of Operation Enduring Freedom. Having a duel diagnosis of PTSD/TBI is frustrating. I take Lexapro and Klonopin as a medical treatment. For the most part the medication and EMDR therapy helps. 

I would strongly encourage any veteran experiencing these things to get checked out by a doctor. I have been living in a nightmare for 15 years. You don't have to. Medicine and a good therapist make all the difference. It is important for us all to live comfortable lives after sacrificing all that we could.

1 comment:

  1. I write as a sign of gratitude to God, i am really happy to be alive today and see the break of another day, I lived and suffered with TBI for a very long time, I was shy and couldnt say it out because of ego issues. I suffered in silence till I was able to get herbal products by DR Jose Alessio, and with his drugs, prayers and instructions I was treated and now i am a happy survivor! pray to God and follow the instructions of Dr Jose, he has the perfect solutions for ailments,Schizophrenia,Traumatic Brain Injuries, Delusions, Brain cancer, Aphasia, Autism, Psychosis and any brain related ailment. Do not wrestle with death on your own, contact him joseherbals28@gmail. com


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