January 21, 2008
Name: J.R. Salzman
Posting date: 1/21/08
Returned from: Iraq
Hometown: Menomenie, WI
Milblog url: LumberjackInADesert
Something that is incredibly lacking at Walter Reed Army Medical Center 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, seven 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 that I realized I have a very serious problem for which I need medical help. Since I've been home I have been unable to sleep. I might sleep for three, four, maybe five 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 spent this 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 for my Students With Disabilities class, I came upon a report listing the symptoms of TBI and was quite surprised to read them. They include:
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, but my wife and I were never told any results. And since I had many surgeries to undergo, it quickly escaped my mind as thoughts of losing more limbs took priority. It's one thing for your therapist to tell you, “Yeah, you probably have TBI”. It's another thing altogether 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?