Posted by Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center on May 10, 2018
In 2016, Army Spc. Ramon Lopez was on his way to Orlando, Florida, for a U.S. Army Reserve training drill when he lost control of his car in the rain. He was knocked unconscious when his car hydroplaned off the highway and crashed into trees.Lopez was hospitalized immediately and diagnosed with a moderate traumatic brain injury (TBI). He had no memory of where he was or what happened. He continues to recover from his TBI using a wide range of treatments, including physical therapy and medication. In addition, Lopez sought alternative remedies to help relax and manage stress, such as meditation and acupuncture.“Since the accident, I see mental health specialists two to four times a month, which has helped make recovery a more positive experience,” Lopez said.Lopez believes people who are recovering from a TBI should be as proactive as possible and embrace changes in their life — with the support of their families and friends.“Lean on the people who love you, and be willing to help them to the best of your ability,” he said. “Inform them about everything you’re going through, because your family will be going through it too.”One of those family members is his wife, Marielle Lopez, who also serves as his caregiver.“My husband tends to get frustrated by the small things,” she said. “But I always try to encourage him and remain positive about our future.”Marielle Lopez attends her husband’s appointments to establish relationships with his doctors and keep lines of communication open. This has also helped her gain a better understanding of her husband’s injury and treatment.The Lopez family still faces some tough times in TBI recovery — but as Ramon Lopez gets better every day, his wife continues to keep hope alive. To look after her own needs and connect with others, she has joined several online support groups and befriended other military spouses who understand what a typical day is like when you’re caring for someone with a TBI.“I’m still learning how to take care of myself while caring for Ramon,” Marielle Lopez said. “But, we are in this together and committed to learning new ways of improving our communication and navigating TBI challenges. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Some days are better than others. The key is to not give up.”Hear more compelling stories of recovery and hope from other service members and veterans on the A Head for the Future website. Do you have a story to share with our team? Submit your story by email today.
Rising from the Rubble: One Marine’s story of recovery
Posted by Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center on April 10, 2018
Sergeant Chris Lawrence didn’t have to go on foot patrol that day in 2007 while serving a tour with the Marine Corps in Iraq. Lawrence liked patrol and it was an opportunity to give one of his comrades a breather. Yet this patrol ended up being far from routine, as a roadside bomb explosion put him in the hospital. In addition to damage to his spleen, kidney and liver – and what would eventually become an amputated right leg – Lawrence found himself struggling with multiple symptoms, including memory issues. Lawrence remembers nothing from his time in the hospital: “That’s all gone to me. I can’t remember. Every now and then, I get images of what happened.”His problems persisted throughout all of 2008 as he struggled with tasks that used to come naturally to him. Whether it was trouble reading or sleeping, these new inconsistencies began to wear on Lawrence.“I was very angry,” Lawrence said. “I was just so frustrated all the time. That was the worst part.”At one point in time, a TBI — traumatic brain injury — seemed nothing more than a three-letter designation to Lawrence. Yet when he received a diagnosis of a mild TBI at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, CA, his outlook shifted.“A TBI, I think… people are becoming aware of it even in civilian life,” Lawrence said. “You get in a severe car accident, people are recognizing that you could have a brain injury from it.”Since his diagnosis, he has embarked on his own path to recovery. He used all the tools at his disposal to help his memory – like carrying around a notepad or setting calendar reminders on his phone – and even took up boxing to improve his balance and coordination. Lawrence stressed that the only way to truly improve is to seek treatment, and advised his fellow veterans to get the help they need.“To go and see the proper doctors and [get] the proper medical [attention], that’s how you should deal with a problem,” Lawrence said. “That’s more macho, more masculine, and more Marine than just sucking it up and holding in whatever problem you got until you explode.”Lawrence was medically retired in 2010. In the years since his TBI, Lawrence went back to school to get his undergraduate degree and graduated from a police academy in southern California. He is now training to become a full-fledged police officer. Even with all his improvements and accomplishments, Lawrence continues to work to improve his wellbeing.“My TBI is still there and I still have memory issues, but I can deal with them a little bit better,” said Lawrence. “I could say that I’m better now than I was ten years ago. I’ve been humbled and I’ve been strengthened at the same time.”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.
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.