Posted by Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center on Aug. 23, 2017
Amanda Burrill deployed for the first time as a lieutenant with the U.S. Navy. Soon after her arrival, she unceremoniously slipped in a sewage leak and loss consciousness. Before long, symptoms arose — loss of concentration and memory — but Burrill kept working.One day, Burrill realized she couldn’t recall the brief she just wrote, and she knew something was wrong. She sought help and received a traumatic brain injury (TBI) diagnosis.Moving Forward“Getting diagnosed gave me a concrete piece of information to move forward with,” she said. “It’s changed my life in that I’ve put so much focus in getting better.”Burrill left the Navy and began treatment in a cognitive remediation program that helped give her a renewed sense of control and purpose.“It’s a slow process, but it’s teaching me that you can’t change everything; all you can do is work hard to change the things you can change,” she said.Recovery AdvocateBurrill now works in the culinary and health fields, and writes articles about food, wine and fitness. She uses this new public platform to discuss TBI and advocate recovery.“If I can do anything to help even one person to push through and not give up, seek out diagnosis … it’s totally worth it for me,” she said.For others affected by TBI, Burrill suggests getting enough sleep, eating healthy and seeking out recovery programs — like the DVBIC TBI Recovery Support Program.“There are people who want to help,” she said. And recovery is possible. Learn more about signs and symptoms of TBI, and visit the Stories page to watch videos of service members and veterans who experienced TBI and got help.
Veteran Makes 3,500-Mile Paddleboard Journey A Mission
Posted by Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center on Aug. 23, 2017
Former Army Sgt. 1st Class Josh Collins, who served in special operations, knew he needed an outlet. Josh had been through the struggles of war, but his battle with his traumatic brain injury (TBI) was unlike any he ever faced before.“I was just very angry … all the time, and very frustrated,” Josh said. “It became nearly overwhelming.” Aside from the irritability, Josh dealt with memory loss, even to the point of forgetting where he was or getting lost in familiar places.His symptoms weren’t always evident, but they were present. “For Josh, it’s not really visible,” said his wife Tonia. “It’s the invisible injury. It’s the change of personality.”Josh’s frustration with his condition drove him to find ways to get better. He started treatment, including cognitive training, therapy to strengthen balance and eye muscle exercises. But the most important part of his recovery turned out to be his introduction to the paddleboard.“A lot of times when I say I’ve found balance, people think mental or emotional stability,” Josh said. “When I got on a paddleboard — because of the movement of the water — everything instantly stood still.”Josh’s newfound love for paddleboarding inspired him to do something no veteran had done before: He set out on a 3,500-mile paddleboard journey from Texas to New York to raise awareness for TBI and veterans’ issues.“I have to paddle as far and as hard as I can … today,” Josh said. “And I have to make a difference where I can today.”Josh’s journey was picked up by news outlets nationwide. True to his mission, he offered words of wisdom to other veterans experiencing brain injury issues.“Really listen to the people around you,” he said. “How are they acting, behaving, treating you? What are they saying? Because you’ve got to get help, whether it’s medical attention or therapy … because it’s your brain.”Josh’s story raised TBI awareness among not only the military community, but also all people who are physically active. He stressed that recovering from TBI — much like his paddleboarding adventure — can be a lengthy process. However, that process is full of small victories along the way.“This is not like two steps forward, one step back,” Josh said. “I think when it comes to your brain … this is 10 steps forward, nine steps back. But you are taking a step forward.”Visit Stories on the A Head for the Future website to hear more inspiring stories of recovery and hope from other service members and veterans. Do you have an experience to share with our team? Submit your story by email today.
MILITARY SPOUSE’S DETERMINATION GETS HER HUSBAND INTO CARE
Posted by Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center on Aug. 14, 2017
It started with short-term memory loss. Next came the nighttime tremors that shook the water glass on their bedside table. By the time Megan Morseth’s husband Justin experienced his first seizure in 2013, she knew that something was seriously wrong.Justin was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in 2004 after serving as an infantryman in Iraq. He had been exposed to improvised explosive device (IED) explosions and rode in Bradley fighting vehicles, but he didn’t experience a single traumatic event. Yet by 2008, he began having unusual symptoms. At first, Megan believed Justin might be coping with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But it was his memory loss that was truly concerning.Before his memory loss, “If he were dropped in the middle of the woods, he could still find his way out,” Megan said. “But when he started having issues it became constant chaos. I’d have to physically go pick him up because he wouldn’t know how to get home. I had to prevent any self-harm.”Justin’s condition worsened after he began having seizures in 2013. Megan tried finding ways to get her husband the help he needed, reaching out to online support groups for veterans and their spouses on Facebook in search of guidance.In 2015, 11 years after discharge, Justin was diagnosed with a mild to moderate traumatic brain injury (TBI). While this diagnosis can be scary, Megan said that getting an official answer to Justin’s difficulties strengthened their connection as a couple.“We became more of a team,” she said. “It was less like caregiving and more like a partnership. He became a partner in our fight to get him well.” Through treatment and therapy, Justin’s symptoms radically diminished.Megan found that the online networks she encountered as a caregiver represented more than just advice for her family. They gave her an opportunity to give back and share advice with her fellow caregivers. She said that doing small things — like writing things down or creating mental cues — can make a big difference for those who are dealing with TBI and navigating the road to recovery. Megan encourages every caregiver to be strong and to trust their instincts.“Go with your gut and keep fighting,” Megan said. “It could save a veteran’s life.”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.