Traumatic brain injuries all too common for war veterans

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Traumatic brain injury or TBI happens after soldiers experience close range and often repeated exposure to bomb blasts.

The George E. Wahlen VA Medical can help young Veterans get their lives back with rehabilitation and compassion.

Sgt. Josh Hansen was an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) hunter in Iraq. He was good at his job, probably too good. Here's Josh's story in his own words:

"Being the lead vehicle you go in and the whole time you're worried that you're missing something and you are going to get somebody behind you killed. The pressure is tremendous on you.

Approximately one-fifth of wounded troops have a brain injury. -Veterans Affairs

"I've had some blow up behind me before. It's pretty gut wrenching.

"When the truck is hit by an IED all the pressure around you goes away. It's like dead silence and then everything snaps back. It's a real jolt to the body.

"Most of the explosions were right under my truck, so the truck would be on the ground flat and then within a half of a second we would be three feet in the air. There was a certain mission I'd start fading out and I'd start dazing off.

"I think depression was a big part of it trying to cope with the new way my brain works now.

Symptoms of TBI:
  • Headaches
  • Cognitive function
  • Memory problems
  • Sleep problems
  • Balance issues

"Going through combat and losing fellow soldiers is something you have to deal with when you come home ... it's hard to take and once you are at home you don't have that comradery anymore ... you are all spread out.

"Even though we're in the civilian world, we have to take care of our fellow soldiers and help them out. If you know a soldier and if they need help ... [tell them] to come in.

"It's still a day-to-day battle ... it's a roller coaster; an emotional roller coaster."

It is important to note that in the vast majority of cases, individuals who sustain a mild traumatic brain injury will completely recover in a matter of weeks to months.

Sgt. Hansen has come a long way and is doing much better.

If you are concerned about TBI call the VA Medical Center or walk into our new Operation Iraqi/Enduring Freedom Clinic and ask to be screened for Traumatic Brain Injury.

Visit or call toll free at 1-800-613-4012

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Jill Atwood, Veteran Affairs Salt Lake City


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