By Brad Amburn
United Press International
Published 7/23/2004 4:42 PM
WASHINGTON, July 23 (UPI) -- Nearly two-thirds of injured U.S. soldiers sent from Iraq to Walter Reed Army Medical Center have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries -- a percentage thought to be higher than any other past U.S. conflict, military officials told United Press International.
About 60 to 67 percent of soldiers coming through the hospital with wounds as well as injuries from blasts, severe falls and motor vehicle accidents have suffered these potentially life-altering brain injuries, said Dr. Deborah Warden, national director of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center at Walter Reed, where the majority of patients with suspected head injuries from Iraq are sent.
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With the development of more sophisticated body armor and helmets made of Kevlar -- a bullet resistant material -- the survival rate of soldiers with traumatic brain injuries has greatly improved, whereas in past wars similar injuries would have been fatal, Warden explained.
She said soldiers who survive head injuries often suffer from a range of cognitive and emotional problems, including difficulty with memory, attention and reasoning, as well as high rates of depression, alcohol use, post-traumatic anxieties and irritability.
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The development of better helmets has reduced the number of penetrating head injuries in Iraq, but internal, concussive head injuries are more of a problem in this war, Warden said, particularly among paratroopers injured by rough landings.
Don't know if better helmets are a good thing. If it were a member of my family injured, I guess I'd be saying, 'thank god he's alive'. As a former combat vet, I'd probably say, 'let me die so I'm not a burden on my family'.
I don't know. I brought a lot of demons with me from my military career, and they were the product of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Fortunately, with the help of my wonderful, understanding wife, and my determination, I don't wake up screaming anymore. I did for the first few years of our marriage. I could imagine what the burden on her would be if the cause had been some physical injury, something that couldn't be worked out, something that she'd have to deal with over the long term. I wonder how kind it is to save people from death so they can come home ot be dependent on others for the rest of their lives. For myself, I'd rather die on the field of battle. Missing a limb is one thing, but the loss of what makes me who I am is something else entirely. Just my opinion and I'm sure there are many who'd disagree.