While deployed in Iraq, Luis Carlos Montalvan experienced a blunt force trauma to the head during an enemy attack. After returning home, the U.S. Army veteran coped with anxiety, sleeplessness, irritability and dizziness — challenges he didn’t know were symptoms of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Montalvan decided to get checked out by health care providers at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, where he was diagnosed with multiple TBIs from his experience in combat. Years later, Montalvan sustained another TBI when he stood up on a jarring New York City subway train to protect other passengers from a group of unruly teens.
During his recovery this time, Montalvan lived alone (recently divorced) and had a hard time getting back on track. He decided to look for help — and that’s how he met Tuesday, his service dog.
An organization contacted Montalvan to discuss a new program that connected people recovering from the effects of war with service dogs. The conversation led to Montalvan bringing a young, trained golden retriever home — which changed his life forever.
“Tuesday is a form of therapy… He’s had a tremendous impact on helping me recover and live with traumatic brain injuries,” he said.
In addition to working with Tuesday, Montalvan went through mental health, and physical and occupational therapies to support his recovery. And he still gets treatment, which helps him understand his symptoms and how to manage them.
Montalvan and Tuesday now travel the country as a team advocating for TBI and PTSD awareness, sharing the stories that Montalvan has since published in three books.
“When we share of ourselves, we help others. Even if it’s not groundbreaking, we are sharing a little piece of ourselves,” he said. “It’s important to discuss these things open[ly] and candidly, because you don’t want people to suffer.”
Visit the Recover section of the A Head for the Future website to learn more about TBI treatment. To hear more stories of hope and resilience from service members and veterans like Montalvan, visit the Stories page.