During retired Marine Corps Capt. Wally Blair’s deployment in September 2007, his convoy hit a roadside bomb. Health care providers treated him for chemical burns and told him he had a concussion.
In the years that followed, Wally began to experience a variety of issues. He struggled with memory and speech functions, and at times he would lose feeling in his arms. During a deployment in 2015, Wally was medevaced home to Camp Lejeune to have an operation for a degenerative disc disorder. That’s when he was referred to the traumatic brain injury (TBI) clinic for the injury he sustained in 2007.
Before the referral, Wally’s wife, Jasmin, sensed that something needed to be addressed. A former Senior Airman in the U.S. Air Force, Jasmin said: “I started looking up the symptoms [Wally experienced] because I noticed a lot of different things after he came back from his incident in 2007. As time went on, they just continued to get worse.”
It was the combination of Jasmin’s insistence and the visit to the TBI clinic that convinced Wally to take time to learn more about TBI symptoms and recovery. He was referred to the Wounded Warrior Clinic at Camp Lejeune, and his recovery truly took off after he received memory and speech therapy.
Jasmin played an instrumental role in Wally’s recovery, using her own research and lessons from Wally’s health care provider to help him cope with his symptoms. She and their children did small things to assist Wally — like keeping various items stored in specific spaces and making sure he got enough sleep at night.
Wally is not shy about crediting Jasmin’s role in his TBI recovery, but she remains humble: “I don’t necessarily view myself as a caregiver. I view myself more as a spouse that wants to help her husband lead a fulfilling life,” she said. “Every day is a different day. … My goal every day is just to know that when we close down for the night to go to bed, that we have let him lead a normal day and be productive. … Letting him know that we’re here as his support and to help him through the day.”
Wally has shown tremendous progress since his TBI diagnosis, thanks in part to his supportive family. He continues his neurology and psychology appointments through the Department of Veterans Affairs and hopes to talk to and educate others in the military community about the symptoms they might be overlooking. Fittingly enough, Wally is now in school to become a teacher.
As for Jasmin, she wants to let other caregivers know they should remember to care for themselves, in addition to their loved ones. “If you’re a caregiver, continue to be patient,” she said. “Make sure that you’re supporting yourself as well as your partner, and know your limitations.”
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