Something that is incredibly lacking at Walter Reed is a traumatic brain injury (TBI) care facility. I have TBI. I didn’t know I had TBI until my Nar-Sum (narrative summary) was composed and ready to be turned in for my med board, 7 months after I arrived. Not once during my 8.5 month stay at Walter Reed did I have a doctor tell me I had TBI, or where I had to go to get help. Most of the memory loss problems I have been suffering were written off to the hundreds of oral medications I’ve taken. So were the other symptoms.
It wasn’t until I returned home and kicked most of the medications did I realize that I have a very serious problem I need medical help for. Since I returned home, I have been unable to sleep. I might sleep for 3, 4, maybe 5 hours if I’m lucky. I have trouble keeping things organized. Saying I have memory problems is an understatement. Since school started, I feel completely overwhelmed. I feel tired and exhausted all the time. I cannot keep simple tasks straight, and I cannot focus on any one task long enough to make progress. I recently spent his weekend seriously contemplating dropping half my classes. I’ve never felt more lost and confused in tasks that I know so well (I already have over 90 college credits).
While doing research for a paper on TBI for my Students With Disabilities class, I stumbled onto this report (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader). I was quite surprised when I opened the document and read the symptoms of TBI. Here are a few:
- Headaches or ringing in the ears
- Feeling sad, anxious or listless
- Easily irritated or angered
- Feeling tired all the time
- Trouble with memory, attention or concentration
- More sensitive to sounds, lights or distractions
- Impaired decision making or problem solving
- Difficulty inhibiting behavior – impulsive
- Slowed thinking, moving speaking or reading
- Easily confused, feeling easily overwhelmed
There is not a symptom on this list I don’t have. I remember being tested shortly after I got to Walter Reed in December, 2006. My wife and I were never told any results though. And since I had many surgeries to undergo, it quickly escaped my mind as thoughts of losing more limbs took over as priority #1. Its one thing for your therapist to tell you, “yeah, you probably have TBI”. Its another thing alltogether for a doctor to tell you “yes, we tested you and you have TBI. Here’s what you have to do to get help.” I was never told I tested positive. If I hadn’t stumbled upon it in my paperwork seven months later I might not have any written documentation to support it.
My question is, if the doctors at Walter Reed knew I have TBI, why wasn’t I given any help? If a doctor does a blood test and discovers you have a disease, he tells you and helps you find a cure. Why did I fall through the cracks? How many other unfortunate soldiers there are experiencing the same thing?