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'I had a flashback:' PTSD common among troops

Posted February 26, 2014

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— Ask anyone one who has been in combat, and they'll say there is nothing pretty, organized or fair about war. Some troops bring visible battle scars home. Others have silent battlefield wounds that can haunt them for the rest of their lives.

After more than a decade of war, the military is scrambling to provide care for thousands of men and women returning with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.

Senior Airman Aubrey Hand was hit by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. While undergoing therapy at Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, he recalled a frightening experience at home after hearing fireworks on New Year's Eve.

“(I) had a flashback, came to about an hour and a half away from my house in full battle-rattle,” Hand said. “I don’t remember leaving. I don’t remember anything, didn’t know where I was. I was off the highway in the woods.”

Staff sergeant James Cornprobst, a Special Forces soldier, was shot in his helmet in Afghanistan and says the impact of the bullet was unreal.

“The round smacked my helmet and knocked me unconscious immediately. So, the guy next to me, he was able to shake me awake. He asked if I was OK, tried to get me to respond, (but) everything was ringing at the time,” Cornprobst said.

Stories like these are common among what's being described as a tsunami of troops returning with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.

Arnold Fisher is the honorary chairman of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. The organization used private money to build the National Intrepid Center at Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland. It's also building four satellite centers to deal with brain injuries across the country, including one to be built at Fort Bragg. It should be open by the end of 2015.

“It’s our duty. It’s our honor to do this,” Fisher said. “People telling me the government should be doing this, maybe that’s true, but if they don’t do it, then we do it.”

Dr. James Kelly is in charge of the organization’s Maryland center.

“All the time, we’re finding new things that are helping us understand the problem better and target the specific treatments,” he said. “One of the most important ones that I think every soldier will understand is sleep is critical to healing.”

The Intrepid Center uses a Diffusion Tensor Imaging MRI to diagnosis traumatic brain injuries and is similar to technology used to evaluate NFL players with concussions. It can see brain damage in soldiers with PTSD that is not detected during normal MRI scans.

Captain Henry McMillan is responsible for treating troops with traumatic brain injuries at Womack Army Medical Center and says 90 to 95 percent of the patients they treat are placed back on active duty.

“We’re bringing on some more complimentary services, such as acupuncture, movement therapists and recreational therapists,” McMillan said. “Those disciplines will help us to actually complete our holistic approach we have towards patient care.”

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  • stevemichaels Feb 27, 2014

    The sad part is that LOPO is dead right, I go to the Durham VA every 6 months (missing 3 fingers from ) and the system is overwhelmed with fraud and waste - where folks who really need the services have to wait way too long -

  • kbuddy772 Feb 27, 2014

    i am glad that they are making strides in PTSD treatment. I am not in the military but suffer chronic PTSD, It seems that the military is getting treatment options while the normal citzen with PTSD are not getting treatment options. The only treatment options for normal folks is CBT and DBT. If there are other treatments i am not aware of them., But hats off to the military they need the best options they can get they lay alot on the line for all of us. I love our military and proudly stand behind them.

  • Clinton Tingen Feb 27, 2014
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    Lightfoot3 and LOPO those comments are the reason 22 vet's take their own lives each day rather than getting help. The firefight doesn't make the PTSD. The situation does. 16,000 miles of convoys with your nervous wound up tight is a pretty stressful 6 months.

  • JennyB Feb 27, 2014

    Arnold Fisher is incredible. He builds these facilities on his own without government help. The government SHOULD be funding this, but since they suck, he does this on his own. My husband suffers both PTSD and TBI from combat. It will be nice to have a center like this nearby. They are way ahead of the times in technology unlike the VA. Now if only we had a magic pill to convince our spouses to go!

  • Obamacare rises again Feb 27, 2014

    It's an excuse to break laws and is easily abused more than the race card.

  • Lightfoot3 Feb 27, 2014

    While I believe PTSD is real in some cases, I also think it is over diagnosed, over emphasized, and sometimes pulled more often than the race card.

  • lopo Feb 27, 2014

    We need more to help these guys. But I also know if anyone has been in these clinics the majority are non combat troops that never been in a firefight. A lot are just looking at more disablity handouts. We need to do a better job at screening so the people who really need the help, get it.

  • grandmagail Feb 27, 2014

    My next door neighbor's daughter was killed by her husband, who was suffering from PTSD. When he realized what he had done, he turned the gun on himself. Such a tragedy for two families.