• Army Veteran Overcomes TBI, Climbs Again
    Posted by Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center on Aug. 23, 2017
    U.S. Army veteran Sgt. 1st Class Elana Duffy started rock climbing when she was 14. She climbs to relieve stress. But after her second tour of duty, Duffy had to quit climbing and wasn’t sure why — until she learned she had symptoms of a traumatic brain injury (TBI).Duffy joined the Army to support a cause she valued and find a career that allowed her to work with her hands and mind. She deployed to Afghanistan in 2004 and then to Iraq in 2005. While in Iraq, Duffy experienced a head injury from a roadside bomb. She sought help and received her TBI diagnosis two years later.Before her diagnosis, Duffy tried to lead her “normal” life. She hid her worries from people, came up with excuses for taking so long to remember names, and lost her ability to concentrate. Eventually she developed migraines, vertigo and cloudy vision, which interfered with daily life and her climbing.“I knew I had all of these symptoms but didn’t put it together,” she said. “Was it PTSD? I made an appointment.”Noting Duffy’s symptoms and her concussive blast injury, her doctor diagnosed her with a TBI.“It was reaffirming to hear that I was [going to] be OK,” Duffy said.She took therapy classes that involved physical, memory and concentration exercises.“I did start noticing the difference, and that alone was worth it to me because I needed something to help start improving me and getting me back to … where I felt functional,” she said.Because climbing wasn’t an option, at least initially, Duffy had to find new stress-relief techniques.. With therapy, she slowly began climbing again.Now, she takes life one day at a time and understands that each day brings challenges. She knows that the climb is tough, but it is possible.“My advice: Don’t stop fighting,” Duffy said. “Now I am climbing better than [before] I had to stop!”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. 
  • Navy Veteran Takes Control Of Her Tbi
    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.