[Marxism] Traumatic Brain Injury

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Mar 4 11:18:58 MST 2005


Key Iraq wound: Brain trauma
By Gregg Zoroya, USA TODAY, March 4, 2005

A growing number of U.S. troops whose body armor helped them survive bomb 
and rocket attacks are suffering brain damage as a result of the blasts. 
It's a type of injury some military doctors say has become the signature 
wound of the Iraq war.

Known as traumatic brain injury, or TBI, the wound is of the sort that many 
soldiers in previous wars never lived long enough to suffer. The explosions 
often cause brain damage similar to "shaken-baby syndrome," says Warren 
Lux, a neurologist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

"You've got great body armor on, and you don't die," says Louis French, a 
neuropsychologist at Walter Reed. "But there's a whole other set of 
possible consequences. It's sort of like when they started putting airbags 
in cars and started seeing all these orthopedic injuries." (Related item: 
TBI gallery)

The injury is often hard to recognize — for doctors, for families and for 
the troops themselves. Months after being hurt, many soldiers may look 
fully recovered, but their brain functions remain labored. "They struggle 
much more than you think just from talking to them, so there is that sort 
of hidden quality to it," Lux says.

To identify cases of TBI, doctors at Walter Reed screened every arriving 
servicemember wounded in an explosion, along with those hurt in Iraq or 
Afghanistan in a vehicle accident or fall, or by a gunshot wound to the 
face, neck or head. They found TBI in about 60% of the cases. The largest 
group was 21-year-olds. (Related story: Survivors struggle to regain control)

 From January 2003 to this January, 437 cases of TBI were diagnosed among 
wounded soldiers at the Army hospital, Lux says. Slightly more than half 
had permanent brain damage. Similar TBI screening began in August at 
National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., near Washington. It showed 
83% — or 97 wounded Marines and sailors — with temporary or permanent brain 
damage. Forty-seven cases of moderate to severe TBI were identified earlier 
in the year.

The wound may come to characterize this war, much the way illnesses from 
Agent Orange typified the Vietnam War, doctors say. "The numbers make it a 
serious problem," Lux says.

An explosion can cause the brain to move violently inside the skull. The 
shock wave from the blast can also damage brain tissue, Lux says. "The good 
news is that those people would have been dead" in earlier wars, says 
Deborah Warden, national director of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury 
Center. "But now they're alive. And we need to help them."

Symptoms of TBI vary. They include headaches, sensitivity to light or 
noise, behavioral changes, impaired memory and a loss in problem-solving 
abilities.

In severe cases, victims must relearn how to walk and talk. "It's like 
being born again, literally," says Sgt. Edward "Ted" Wade, 27, a soldier 
with the 82nd Airborne Division who lost his right arm and suffered TBI in 
an explosion last year near Fallujah. Today, he sometimes struggles to 
formulate a thought, and his eyes blink repeatedly as he concentrates.

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