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.”
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