• Army Medical Corps Veteran Stresses Importance of Seeking Help for TBI
    Posted by Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center on March 12, 2018
    Army veteran Maj. (Dr.) Daniel José Correa was getting boxes out of his attic when he fell 10 feet and briefly lost consciousness. He was diagnosed with a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). As a neurologist and TBI expert, Correa knew exactly what to do after he hit his head.“The next day I started experiencing headaches and removed my ego,” he said. “I went to a physician assistant in our clinic and told them what happened.”As soon as he noticed symptoms related to TBI, he approached his injury the same way he tells his patients.“I knew the symptoms to watch out for — the possibility of balance issues, headaches or mood changes,” he said. “I made sure to get checked by other people [in the medical profession] so that I wasn’t missing anything.”Correa was evaluated at the Eisenhower Army Medical Center in Fort Gordon, Georgia. At the time of injury, he was serving as the chief of the Neuroscience and Rehabilitation Center and provided care for service members and their families with neurological, physical and emotional challenges — including TBI.He experienced headaches, migraines and sensitivity to light — common symptoms of TBI. After receiving limiting activity and some balance exercises for a week, his symptoms subsided. He felt lucky for his treatment team and the available resources offered at his location.“It’s important to step back and realize that you’re not always going to be aware of how it [a TBI] can affect your mood and relationships,” he said. “Having a reliable and trustworthy provider that can observe what you’re going through is essential.”Correa has advice for health care providers who aren’t used to treating TBI.“It’s not just what shows up on a CAT scan or an MRI,” he said. “There are so many other things that can affect service members, and being aware of those other conditions, like mental health conditions, is fundamental.”In 2016, after 12 years of active-duty service, Correa was honorably discharged from the Army and moved to New York City, where he trained in the treatment of seizures and now serves as the neurology deputy chief of service at Montefiore Medical Center. In his new role, and through research, Correa works to increase public outreach and education about TBI and epilepsy.Visit the A Head for the Future website to hear more compelling personal stories of recovery and hope from other service members, veterans and caregivers. Have a story to share with our team? Submit yours by email today.
  • From Healer to Healed: A Purple Heart Recipient’s Story of Recovery
    Posted by Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center on March 2, 2018
    Sergeant Wendell Guillermo heard screams all around him. The year was 2005 in Mosul, Iraq, and his Army unit was hit by a fragmentary grenade. Despite sustaining his own injuries and lacerations, Wendell sprang into action and put his medical training to use, attending to his comrades and applying a tourniquet to the leg of a fellow soldier. For his injuries, Wendell was awarded the Purple Heart.After being examined at the combat support hospital in Camp Diamondback, Wendell demanded to be released to his unit so he could help them. At the time, assessments for TBI after a combat incident weren’t required.“I think at the time I still had that adrenaline rushing through me,” Wendell said. “But after that day when I was released, I felt that adrenaline rush just kind of seep out, and I started feeling the aches and pains, headaches, stuff like that.”Wendell remained deployed, but he was already noticing changes to his daily life. Now, it was Wendell who needed help.“After the grenade attack, I experienced [sic] irritability, sensitivity to light and sounds and began forgetting things,” Wendell said. He was also experiencing abnormal dizzy spells.It wasn’t until 2007 that a Department of Veterans Affairs polytrauma unit in Los Angeles diagnosed Wendell with a mild to moderate traumatic brain injury (TBI). He says the diagnosis “lifted a weight off his shoulders” and allowed him to learn more about his condition.“[The diagnosis has] given me the ability to work around it,” Wendell said. “I can be creative, in a way, to mitigate these issues, and cope with day-to-day activities.”Wendell went to school, receiving a bachelor’s degree from UCLA. He says that establishing a network of support is critical for any veteran’s recovery, especially for those veterans going back to school. He continues to recover with the support of friends he made on campus.“You can make those connections on campuses. They have veterans groups where you can go… and relate with fellow veterans who have gone through the same service. Some even might have a TBI.”Today, Wendell is working as a software developer for an e-commerce startup in Los Angeles. He continues to recover, hiking to de-stress and honing his ability to focus by building web applications for work. Wendell urges all veterans, service members and their families to be proactive in seeking assistance if they feel they may have a brain injury.“There’s a saying in the military that we have that is, ‘Help me help you.’ No one can help you out if you can’t help yourself. You’ve got to be proactive. Be assertive in seeking out those treatments for TBI.”Visit Stories on the A Head for the Future website to hear more compelling stories of recovery and hope from other service members and veterans. Have a story to share with our team? Submit your story by email today.
  • Retired Army Officer Continues TBI Recovery
    Posted by Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center on Feb. 26, 2018
    While walking to work on a rainy day, Michelle Trotter, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, slipped and landed headfirst on the floor. The accident caused problems with her depth perception and persistent headaches—symptoms she didn’t realize resulted from traumatic brain injury (TBI). Doctors checked her visible injuries, monitored her progress, and sent her back to work.Trotter, who was a medical readiness officer while in the Army Reserve, later sustained two additional TBIs before she was diagnosed with a TBI. She sustained the first TBI after she became dizzy and collapsed while loading groceries into her car. Years later, she had another TBI while completing a 20-mile bike ride when an impatient driver tried to veer around her group and hit her in the process. She was wearing a helmet, which helped minimize the seriousness her injury.After the third TBI, Trotter was sent to a local hospital then transferred to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland, for a brain scan. It was there  doctors discovered a moderate TBI. After the TBI diagnosis, doctors worked with her to create a treatment plan for her difficulties with depth perception, dizziness, and balance issues, along with pain and persistent headaches.Throughout her treatment, Trotter met with a series of health care professionals and credits them with helping her to recover quicker. She started occupational, physical and behavioral health therapies, and later recreational therapy at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Maryland. While she can’t bike yet, she has learned new skills such as fly fishing, archery and knitting.“I want people to take advantage of all the opportunities presented to them so they can experience those, and meet people who are in similar situations as themselves.”Trotter also emphasized the importance of having a personal support system, in the form of a family member or friend. “I want people to make sure they always have someone there to support them, that understands health care, the situation, and can serve as an advocate,” she said.Trotter is excited to get back to doing the things she enjoys—like biking and teaching others to ski. Until then, she’s diligently keeping her appointments and completing her treatments with a positive attitude. “I try not to own the ‘sick’ label so I don’t get stuck in that world," she said. "I don’t want that to be my normal.”Visit stories on the A Head for the Future website to hear more compelling personal accounts of recovery and hope from other service members, veterans and caregivers. Have a story to share with our team? Submit yours by email today.