TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) has been called the signature wound of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. It is defined as damage to the brain caused by sudden trauma or injury as a result of a blow to the head.  This may be from the impact of a bullet, blast waves from an explosion, or other head injury.  Whatever the cause, the result can have a wide-range of effects, both physical and psychological.  Because the damage may involve bleeding and/or bruising in the brain, the individual may appear fine in the immediate hours following the injury, but develop symptoms days or weeks later.

With mild TBI, symptoms may include:

  • Loss of consciousness for a few seconds to a few minutes
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Headache
  • Feelings of confusion or disorientation
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Moderate to severe TBI can include any of the symptoms of mild injury on a more severe basis, as well as loss of consciousness from several minutes to several hours, convulsions, dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes, inability to be awakened from sleep, weakness in the extremities, loss of coordination, agitation or combativeness, slurred speech, or even coma.

Treatment for mild TBI may involve no more than allowing time for the brain to heal itself along with over-the-counter pain relievers. For moderate to severe TBI, more emphasis will be placed on ensuring the person is getting adequate oxygen and maintaining blood pressure.  Care may focus on preventing further damage due to inflammation, bleeding or reduced oxygen supply to the brain.

Medications may be needed following a brain injury. Diuretics to reduce the fluid in tissues, or anti-seizure drugs.  Sometimes doctors will induce temporary comas as a comatose brain needs less oxygen to function.  At times, surgery will be necessary to minimize additional damage to the brain.  Blood clots may need to be removed, or fractured bones in the skull may need to be removed.  Sometimes an opening is made into the skull to relieve pressure by providing room for swollen tissue.

Most individuals who have had a moderate to severe TBI will require rehabilitation care. They may need to relearn basic skills such as walking or speech.  There are many things that can help in coping with TBI, such as joining a support group, journaling if you have difficulties remembering dates and appointments, sticking to a routine, and doing what you can to minimize distractions.

TBI can be a life-altering condition, but with the support of family and friends, and direction by a qualified physician, you can overcome many of the setbacks experienced in the early days following an injury.

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CONTROLLING HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE

Often, people who have high blood pressure aren’t even aware of the problem. Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is a silent killer.  There are many factors that affect your blood pressure, and while that may seem a bit daunting, it also means there are many ways you can make a difference in lowering your blood pressure.

To begin with, try to eat smart. Stay away from salty, high-fat foods, which means limiting your consumption of canned, dried, cured, packaged and fast foods.  Eat 8 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.  Yes, I know you like to think you eat enough fruits and vegetables, but try writing down in one day exactly what you eat.  Most of us are lucky to find we’re eating 3 or 4 fruits and vegetables per day!

When selecting the meat you’ll be eating, choose lean meats, fish or chicken. Eat whole grain pasta, brown rice and beans.  Eat two or three services of low fat or fat-free dairy products per day.  Try to keep your weight down.  If necessary, count calories so you know what you’re taking in and where your problem areas are.  If you can get a few pounds off, do it: weight loss of 10 pounds can help lower blood pressure.

Get active. Target those activities you enjoy and do them often with friends or family.  Remember, connecting with other people can help you keep your blood pressure down too.  Try to be active for a least 30 minutes each day, most days of the week.

Watch your smoking and alcohol consumption. If you can quit smoking, do it.  There are many programs out there to help; don’t quit quitting!

If lifestyle changes don’t do the trick, talk to your doctor about prescription medications. You may not want to take a pill every day, but it’s sure better than living every day paralyzed from a stroke.

HIRE A VETERAN

I was surprised to learn there are almost a million Veterans in the U.S. that are currently unemployed. I know sometimes employers mistakenly think that the skills Veterans have won’t transfer to civilian jobs, but that just isn’t true.  Most of the time the background training Veterans have makes them excellent candidates for civilian jobs.

One of the best things is that Veterans already know how to work.  They may not know the particular details of a specific job, but knowing how to apply themselves and keep at the job until it’s done and done right is a huge bonus.  Veterans are goal-oriented, and they understand the importance of teamwork in getting the job done correctly.  But while they value teamwork, they are also quite capable of working independently without constant supervision.

Veterans are capable of reasoning out solutions to problems and they take their work seriously. They are usually quite up-to-date on the latest technology, and they’re informed on health and safety issues too.

Hiring a Veteran can be very cost effective. There are several programs available to reimburse employers for hiring Veterans.  The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), Returning Heroes Tax Credit and Wounded Warriors Tax Credit provide incentives of up to $9,600 annually for hiring eligible unemployed Veterans.  Then there is the Government’s Special Employer Incentives program that allows employers to hire a qualified Veteran at an apprenticeship wage.  Employers are reimbursed for up to half each veteran’s salary to cover certain supplies and equipment, additional expenses and any loss in production.

Our Veterans are experienced workers, skilled in many fields, dependable and focused on doing the job right. Hire a Veteran today!

 

 

PTSD SUPPORT SYSTEMS

It may seem that it’s easier to keep to yourself when you have PTSD. Your fear prevents you from letting other people get close.  If you let them in, you have to accept that you may hurt them and that they may hurt you.

Living without a support system is like trying to live in a vacuum. We are social animals and we need that interaction with others in order to be healthy.  Unfortunately, when we isolate ourselves, it causes us to give up the very people that can help us heal.

You may say that you have people in your social environment and that it doesn’t help. But it’s not just living with others it’s having meaningful interaction with them too.  That includes talking to them about the things that are going through your head, sharing what’s in your heart, and letting them stand with you when things get tough.  That’s how we relearn trust.

When you are isolated, you let the demons inside your head do the talking and no one is there to challenge them. You chase those demons out by exposing them to the light through sharing them and challenging the things you tell yourself that let them maintain their hold over you.  This is why getting involved in a PTSD Support Group can be so helpful.  You team up with others who have shared in similar experiences and together you rewrite the lessons you learned.

We can’t live and flourish in a vacuum. We need other people in our lives, even when that means we have to trust them to not hurt us…or live with the knowledge that we’ll survive even if they do cause us pain.  Going it alone doesn’t work.  Sharing the burden of PTSD makes it bearable.

FOLLOW YOUR PASSION

When we talk about reengaging as a method of counteracting the effects of PTSD, what does that look like? How do you find your way back to doing those things that made you happy in the past?  It is one thing to understand that reengaging in life is going to help, but another to find ways to reinvest ourselves.  Perhaps the most effective way to help yourself relax is to immerse yourself in something you’re passionate about.

If you are a hunter, then find a few friends and go hunting a few times during the year. If you’re into music, then join a small band, or collect a small group of friends that like the same style of music and get together with them to listen to special concerts.  If you are a woodworker, then work in wood, but find a way to connect it to doing things with other people.   Maybe that means selling something at local art shows or flea markets, or teaching small groups the finer points of your craft.  Whatever it is that really interests you, use it as a way to heal by connecting with other people.

The point is, you will be more comfortable participating in activities you already enjoy and that will capture your attention than in forcing yourself to get involved in things you don’t really like or that are only marginally interesting to you. If you’ve ever read a really good book that you just couldn’t put down, then you understand how you can lose yourself in something that really interests you.  It helps you focus on something besides how uncomfortable you are when other people are around.  It’s a form of distracting yourself from what you find uncomfortable: interacting with other people.

Change can be uncomfortable; that’s why we so often fight it. But change is necessary to counteract the effects of your PTSD.  Remember, you’re fighting to get your life back, and finding your passion, doing the things that bring you joy, and letting others back into your life, is a big part of doing that.