• From Car Accident to Beauty Pageant: Discover Tina’s Story
    Posted by Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center on Feb. 21, 2017
    Air Force veteran Tina Garcia woke up in a daze after her car was rear-ended in 2002. When she was rushed to the hospital, she was told not to move and that her neck was probably broken. Garcia was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Recovery was tough but eventually led her down a surprising path.“I had to relearn how to read and write. The worst part was recalling my own family. I would lose words, and I would get angry. I’m a fighter, but I really could not just soldier my way through,” Garcia said. Garcia connected with Robin Wininger, a regional education coordinator for the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. Wininger helped Garcia share her story and connect with other veterans for support.“Robin helped me and other veterans realize that one size does not fit all with a TBI,” Garcia said. “It’s a growth process, and it’s about recovery.”With the encouragement of Wininger, Garcia found the courage to share her story with a larger audience — on stage. Tina signed up for the ​Miss Colorado Senior America pageant. It was her first pageant ever, yet Garcia wasn’t in the pageant to win. She was there to show other military families and veterans that recovery from TBI is possible. Garcia gave a moving speech about recovering from concussions and TBI.“We have a duty to recover, we have a mission of service above ourselves and we can never quit,” she said.  Garcia’s inspiring speech helped her place second runner-up. Wininger — a supporter throughout Garcia’s TBI journey — cheered from the audience the entire evening.To watch videos of TBI recovery and hope, visit the Stories page.
  • Veteran Copes With TBI Through Adaptive Sports and Family Support
    Posted by Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center on Feb. 21, 2017
    When former Air Force Technical Sgt. Krys Bowman returned home from another deployment, his wife, Lacey, noticed changes. Addressing those changes resulted in a new way for Krys to give back and to get involved.“Parts of him were still there … but his smiles were becoming more and more vacant,” Lacey said remembering his homecoming.  Krys had experienced symptoms for years — eye twitches, headaches, photo sensitivity and sleep problems — but this time he finally decided to see a doctor. A neurologist diagnosed him with multiple counts of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that were sustained through combat and military training. The diagnosis was a relief to Krys, who knew he had symptoms but didn’t speak up.“I hid it for too long because I didn’t want to lose everything that I’d worked so hard to obtain,” he said.During his recovery, Krys joined an adaptive sports program. By 2015, he was participating in the Warrior Games as an athlete and mentor. When a fellow veteran passed away shortly before the competition, he took on the competitor’s events too, doubling the number in his own docket. After Krys finished the last leg of a grueling swim race on behalf of the fallen soldier, onlookers in the crowd rose to their feet.“People were giving me a standing ovation because they knew I wasn’t the one swimming that day,” he said.Krys continues to recover with the unfaltering support of his family.“They watched me come home a little bit different … and they’ve never stepped away from me. They’ve always stood beside me,” he said.His wife remains his biggest supporter, helping him manage his symptoms and cope with TBI. She says just knowing what he’s going through can help her “remember who he used to be and see who he is now.”Krys knows things are different — but the good kind of different, for both him and his family.“My life has just begun in a whole new way,” he said.To watch videos of TBI recovery and hope, visit the Stories page.
  • Soldier Diagnosed With TBI More Than 1 Year After Injury, Continues Treatment Today
    Posted by Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center on Feb. 7, 2017
    Sara Poquette visits a girls school in Iraq with the Maine Army National Guard. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Sgt. Blair Heusdens)Joining the military just days after she turned 18 in 2001, Sara Poquette was eager to serve in the Wisconsin Army National Guard as a broadcast journalist. She completed training and deployed to Iraq. There she was embedded with fellow soldiers producing news packages about rebuilding the country’s infrastructure. Documenting developments on the front lines, Poquette often saw combat and its after-effects. During one day, multiple attacks changed her life.“More than 20 mortars landed inside our base in the morning — one hitting a shower where I was minutes earlier,” Poquette said. “That afternoon, our convoy was hit with an IED [improvised explosive device]. From what I remember, I saw the explosion first and immediately felt the pressure wave follow. It was chaos.”At the time, she didn’t notice any health-related effects from the blasts and there was no mandatory traumatic brain injury (TBI) screening after combat incidents. She completed her tour in Iraq a couple of months later and went home. Once home, she noticed that she stuttered, felt sensitive to light, and seemed off-balanced. Poquette also experienced challenges associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).Poquette served 14 months on active duty with the National Guard, after her concussive event, before she was diagnosed with a TBI. “I was just back from my second deployment to Cuba, experiencing major headaches. I scheduled an appointment with a neurologist at the VA (Department of Veterans Affairs) and was diagnosed with a TBI — a concussion,” she said. “There was a lot of relief knowing why I had been experiencing these things.”Poquette left the service and continued treatment. Through treatment, she learned about strategies to enhance brain functions that support planning, reasoning, decision-making, judgment and emotional management. She also discovered coping techniques to reduce information overload and calm her mind.“I learned simple, yet powerful, tools that anyone can use in their daily life. For instance, I write down my two top priorities of what I want to accomplish in my workday,” she said. “If I get overwhelmed while on the road, I turn off the radio or music and focus on driving.” Poquette continues to manage her TBI symptoms and thrives with the help of her spouse.“My husband is my biggest support system for my PTSD and TBI,” she said. “Though I still have hard moments some days, I’m the happiest that I’ve been in my entire life.”Learn about signs and symptoms of TBI, and visit the Stories page to watch videos of military members who experienced TBI and got help.