Friday, August 29, 2008
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Beginning last month, in the days immediately before Independence Day, a riveting series called "In Their Boots" laced up and hit the Internet for the first time. It offers the nation's 99.5% of non-serving civilians an intimate portrait into the struggles and successes of our military families today.
Ever since its first webcast, host Jan Bender (an Iraq vet and Marine himself) and the Brave New Foundation team have been broadcasting a new live and interactive episode every Wednesday night at 4pm Pacific/7pm Eastern. Each week, viewers are invited to listen to the stories of Iraq and Afghanistan service and family members, learn about the groups and organizations that are helping them, and then called to help in some way as well.
This week's episode ("War Scar"), airing on August 27, 2008, introduces us to Jerry Cortinas, "a Green Beret in the U.S. Army Special Forces from 1997 to 2004. The focused and challenging work of a Green Beret was what he knew and what he loved. While operating a rocket propelled grenade in Afghanistan in December 2002, the device malfunctioned and exploded, taking his left forearm and hand. Jerry could no longer do his job. He felt like an outsider in his own hometown."
Jerry's wife, Celina, paints a portrait of a strong (yet still made of flesh and blood and feelings and prides and hurts like the rest of us) Army wife, now faced with "the challenge of helping her husband adapt to civilian life and supporting him as he returned to his role as husband and father" to their two kids.
Please pass this on, especially to those in the area who may wish to add their voices, experiences. Those who wish to have five minutes to speak to the committee must pre-register by September 10. Details in extended below:
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) gives notice under Public Law 92–463 (Federal Advisory Committee Act) that the Advisory Committee on OIF/OEF Veterans and Families will conduct a meeting and a site visit in the Palo Alto, California area on September 16–18, 2008. Committee activities will include tours and briefings at various VA facilities.
The purpose of the Committee is to advise the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on the full spectrum of health care, benefits delivery and related family support issues that confront service members during their transition from active duty to veteran status and during their post-service years.
The Committee will focus on the concerns of all men and women with active military service in Operation Iraqi Freedom and/or Operation Enduring Freedom, but will pay particular attention to severely disabled veterans and their families.
The agenda for the September 16–18 meeting will include briefings on recent site visits, discussions on proposed recommendations to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and tours of the VA Medical Center. The Committee will discuss its findings and observations based on previous Committee meetings, site visits, written reports, and personal experiences.
Lizette Alvarez of the New York Times writes of the special blast category that is combat-related traumatic brain injury (TBI). The entire piece is well worth a read, but I'd like to share a few of the more statistics-heavy grafs:
As many as 300,000, or 20 percent, of combat veterans who regularly worked outside the wire, away from bases, have suffered at least one concussion, according to the latest Pentagon estimates. About half the soldiers get better within hours, days or several months and require little if any medical assistance. But tens of thousands of others have longer-term problems that can include, to varying degrees, persistent memory loss, headaches, mood swings, dizziness, hearing problems and light sensitivity. ...
Little is known medically by doctors or scientists about what happens to a brain as a result of a powerful bomb blast, as opposed to car crashes on a highway, blows to the head on a football field or a bullet wound. These are the first wars in which soldiers, protected by strong armor and rapid medical care, routinely survive explosions at close range and then return to combat.
The bomb blasts, which throw off energy waves — atmospheric overpressures and underpressures — that are absorbed by the body, add a little-studied dimension to the trauma. Scientists are only now beginning to study the extent of the damage.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
From Health Day News:
The brain mechanism that turns off traumatic feelings associated with bad memories has been identified by researchers at the University of California, Irvine, who said their finding may lead to the development of new drugs to treat panic disorders.
When a person suffers a traumatic experience, environmental cues often become associated with the bad experience. Subsequent exposure to the same cues can cause fear or even panic attacks, according to study author Rainer Reinscheid, an associate professor of pharmacology and pharmaceutical sciences.
The UCI team, along with colleagues from the University of Muenster in Germany, found that a protein called neuropeptide S (NPS) eliminates traumatic responses to bad memories by working on a group of neurons inside the amygdala, the brain region where negative memories are stored.
Friday, August 22, 2008
The Department of Veterans Affairs uses it in their Hepatitis C treatment program. Fort Bliss' Warrior Resilience program -- the same one Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey believes should be replicated throughout the military -- uses it as one tool to help soldiers strengthen and recover following combat.
Military OneSource's Health Library says it can increase wellness and "treat diseases of all types."
And it's the reason given by New Zealand's champ cyclist Hayden Roulston for bouncing back from a serious heart condition to claim both Olympic silver and bronze medals this past week in Beijing.
What is it? Reiki [pronounced "Ray-Key"] energy healing.
While I've heard of it in the past (in fact, I have a sister who is a Reiki Master and had used the touch therapy in her past massage therapy practice), it seems to be bubbling up to the mainstream surface more and more these days. That the military and VA are incorporating it, is another positive sign that mountains can be moved even in mammoth bureaucracies -- as long as you believe it can be so (and add a little action into the mix to help it along).
From ABC World News:
I've been looking for a related article on this, and have only found this general snippet from USNews' Political Bulletin:
ABC World News said a new report from Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn (R) has found that a "growing number" of Federal workers are not showing up for their jobs, a situation which Coburn "says costs $7 billion to $10 billion in lost productivity every year." How do these employees "get away with it? Coburn blames layers of bureaucracy and inefficiencies, which have allowed the numbers to grow." But the "union which represents many federal employees blames the Bush Administration."
While not mentioned above, the ABC report reveals that the Dept. of Veterans Affairs has the most truant workers of all federal agencies. While most individual VA employees do incredibly trying and important work for our military families, that their peers rate highest for "no shows" (simply not coming in for days, weeks and even months at at time while still being paid) is yet another indication of the mammoth failure of our federal systems.
Disturbing news as a taxpayer and also as someone who believes the VA needs to do better than it currently is.
We deserve better from our government.
The Portland Tribune's Peter Korn writes a tight piece on veterans and suicide, weaving together both local and national statistics:
“More often than not, the veterans I have spoken to all say they know somebody who has attempted suicide,” says Portland State University professor and suicide researcher Mark Kaplan.
The numbers are stark, and staggering:
• In 2005, the last year for which complete Oregon data has been compiled, 19 Oregon soldiers died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. That same year, 153 Oregon veterans of all ages, serving in various wars, committed suicide.
• The rate of suicide among Oregon men who are veterans is more than double that of Oregon men in general — 46 suicides out of every 100,000 compared to 22 out of 100,000 — according to the Oregon Department of Human Services Center for Health Statistics.
• Nearly one in three Oregon suicides, according to Kaplan, is a veteran.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
Fort Sill's Warrior Transition Unit Problems, Progressive Disabled VA Care, Military Parents Sue AIG, Toledo Vet Center Expands PTSD Program
From Science Daily:
More than 80 percent of a sample of Air Force women deployed in Iraq and other areas around the world report suffering from persistent fatigue, fever, hair loss and difficulty concentrating, according to a University of Michigan study.
The pattern of health problems reported by 1,114 women surveyed in 2006 and 2007 is similar to many symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome, the controversial condition reported by veterans of the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
"It is possible that some unknown environmental factor is the cause of current health problems and of Gulf War Syndrome," said U-M researcher Penny Pierce.
"But it is also possible that these symptoms result from the stress of military deployment, especially prolonged and multiple deployments."
Sunday, August 17, 2008
An Iraq infantryman named Zero offers a compelling introduction to this post, which brings together a number of art programs and exhibits taking place on television and in galleries and statehouses and theaters across the country this summer and fall.
The one common denominator: the fusion of expression through art and the experience of war.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Studies: Veterans and Alcohol, PTSD's Effect on the Heart, Tuberculosis Drug Shows Promise in Reshaping Traumatic Memories
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
You are not broken.
You're strong, my friend.
You are resilient like a willow --
You'll find your spring again.
Though your branches
Now weigh heavy,
Your roots go deep and true.
This is just a change of season --
God has better plans for you.
-- Sharon Hudnell
Back in May, as has been the case since 1984 on each Friday before Mother's Day, we celebrated what's known as Military Spouse Appreciation Day. Spouse Buzz, a place where military spouses can connect with one another, hosted guest blogger Lieutenant General William Caldwell, Commanding General, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center and Ft. Leavenworth.
This is what he wrote at the time:
We’ve watched you nurse your wounded warriors back to health in military hospitals. You’re there, still full of hope, when Troopers with head injuries don’t recognize their family. You encourage them. You decorate their rooms. You read their favorite books to them. You are the first to notice when they can squeeze your hand again for the first time.
The spouse on the home front pays the bills, fixes the car, gets the kids to soccer practice, helps with the homework and building the kids pinewood derby car... you are our true heroes. You have unique experiences that only other military spouses can comprehend. ...
All military spouses know why their loved ones serve, and they share in their hardship and sacrifice and ask for little in return. It is humbling to those of us who wear the uniform to know that our best friends, our spouses, are serving along side us. Those of us in uniform serve because we love our Nation; our spouses do it for love of us. Our service men and women could not continue in this profession without your help, and for that we are eternally grateful…and so is our Nation.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Stateside Predator Operators and Combat Stress, IL Gov. Moves to Reduce Vets' Property Taxes, Female Vets and Sexual Trauma, Free Journal Articles
Sunday, August 10, 2008
I haven't posted anything funny and light in a while, so no better time than now to remedy that oversight. Dr Deb's Psychological Perspectives blog (worthy of checking out for its bright offerings) recently shared this Simon's Cat YouTube clip in her post "Laughter is SUCH Good Medicine." Anyone who has a cat, will find these irresistibly funny. I know I did...
Let Me In!
Two more Simon's Cat installments in extended.
William Hageman of the Chicago Tribune reports today on an area doctor using a novel approach to treating the anxiety that surfaces in many PTSD sufferers.
Estimates of how many veterans suffer from PTSD range as high as 50 percent. What's not disputed is that most of them are undiagnosed. Dr. Eugene Lipov refers to the growing problem as "the reverse surge."
Lipov is the president and medical director of Advanced Pain Centers, with offices in Hoffman Estates and Westmont. He believes he has found a way to combat the feelings that come with PTSD through a seemingly simple injection that calms the section of the brain that becomes overactive in PTSD patients.
The treatment is called a stellate ganglion block [more info: general | clinical], an injection of the local anesthetic bupivacaine around a group of nerves in the neck.
"The medication we're using is the same numbing medication that has been used for decades for pregnant women during labor and delivery," explains Dr. Jay Joshi, director of research at Advanced Pain Centers. But using it against PTSD is a new idea. Lipov made another connection between the medication and the body's reaction.
"I found that one part of the brain that works on hot flashes and PTSD is the same ... the insular cortex," he explains. The injection, he says, "reboots" the insular cortex. "It resets the nerve system the way God built it," he says.
View the procedure, and learn of the experience of the first Iraq veteran to receive this new treatment in extended.
Friday, August 08, 2008
Swift Warrior, Healing Heart: Hand2Hand Contact's Alison Lighthall Presents at the 11th Annual Force Health Protection Conference
This is a long, long delayed post on an extraordinary individual, doing heartfelt and much-needed work to bring the public's attention to combat PTSD. My greatest appreciation for her and her work, and apologies this took so long to get online.
Beginning tomorrow in Albuquerque, New Mexico, attendees of the 11th Annual Force Health Protection Conference (free conference to military and civilian alike) will be in for a great treat. Alison Lighthall, founder of Hand2Hand Contact, presents "10 Things You Can Do If You Only Have 10 Minutes: Healing Interventions That Can Be Done With Veterans Anytime, Anywhere."
We do in fact love or hate our enemies to the same degree that we love or hate ourselves. In the image of the enemy we will find the mirror in which we may see our own faces most clearly.
-- Sam Keen, Faces of the Enemy
Growing up, my family was an Olympics-loving family.
Every four years we'd watch spell-bound as the world came together to compete and show their stuff. My parents, being political refugees from Hungary following the 1956 Revolution against the mighty Soviet Union, of course would root mightily against the Red giant. Remember the miracle 1980 USA hockey team? That USSR defeat not only brought our house down, it was celebrated by nearly the whole country back then.
These days, so much has changed politically, but our world still continues to harbor an "us against them" mentality, one bred on the feeling that we don't share bonds with others that don't look like us or talk like us or salute the same flag.
This adversary becomes sports(wo)man-like at the Olympics.
But, with China being the host country this year, we've seen more tumult and protest leading up to this years' games than we've witnessed in the past few gatherings. What to do?
One documentarian has chosen to deal with the situation by aiming his focus on fostering peace (rather than rallying against China; btw, the Chinese characters above spell "peace").
Today, as the Games begin, we're all invited to join in with him to help produce an interesting art project, World Wide Moment.
Monday, August 04, 2008
DoD's $300M PTSD/TBI Research Push, Ft. Hood Presidential Candidate Debate?, Online Sleeplessness Chat
Google has just launched a new online product called Knol (short for 'knowledge'), some say to compete with the ever popular Wikipedia.
While there are some similarities, there are notable differences as well -- chief among them the ability to produce and control your own page of original content. I've just created my knol on Combat PTSD (beefing it up with additional sections in the weeks ahead), and invite you to head over to read, rate and/or review it.
Since you're online right now and have found your way to this blog, perhaps via a search engine or another link, you're most likely someone that's pretty comfortable with using the Internet.
It's a powerful source of information.
One of the Web's greatest strengths is that everything is right at your fingertips, all easily accessed from the comfort of home or work or maybe even a library or Internet cafe. Heck, just about anywhere you are if you're wireless these days.
In addition to the usual free-form tapping into digital knowledge, there are also more structured ways of learning on the Internet, too. I've poked around a bit and found three cyber classes on PTSD that I'm happy to share in extended.
Please note: The first two courses are "perishable," i.e., they start soon. If you're interested, sign up now rather than later.
Sunday, August 03, 2008
There is a world of silence that sits between those who have seen unspeakable acts of violence and those who have not. -- Professor Sandy McFarlane, head of psychiatry at the University of Adelaide
So begins director Jennifer Lee's 2008 Australian documentary, Casualties of War, now available on YouTube (and at triple j tv).
"CASUALTIES OF WAR tells the story of Leigh, a Special Forces soldier who served with the Australian Army in East Timor. Leigh believes that the hardest part of going to war is coming home. A year after Leigh returned from East Timor he reached breaking point and left the army. It is only now, 4 years later, he feels able to speak out about the realities of being a soldier."
For Mature Audiences - strong language, violent images
Military Construction and VA Appropriations, Disability Claims Modernization, Veterans Compensation Cost of Living Adjustment
As Congress begins their annual August break, a look at some of their pre-recess veterans-related work:
I've been a runner for years (more like "jogging" the way I do it :o) and have always leaned on a number of yoga and qigong moves for my warm-up/cool-down. The spinal twist is one of my favorites as are mountain pose and warrior pose.
This summer, however, I've picked up my yoga and qigong practices a notch and have found my daily 30 minute routines not only give my body a great workout, they help to clear the mind of stress with every stretch and inhalation.
What works for general tension also appears to work for those coping with PTSD, as research continues to show:
In a study [pdf] published last year in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, a prominent PTSD expert found that a group of female patients who completed eight hatha yoga classes showed significantly more improvement in symptoms—including the frequency of intrusive thoughts and the severity of jangled nerves—than a similar group that had eight sessions of group therapy. The study also reported that yoga can improve heart-rate variability, a key indicator of a person's ability to calm herself. ...
The study's most striking findings were patients' own descriptions of how their lives changed, says the author, Bessel van der Kolk, a professor of psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine and medical director of the Trauma Center, a clinic and training facility in Brookline, Massachusetts. Van der Kolk, who has studied trauma since the 1970s, is considered a pioneer in the field. ...
Van der Kolk first became interested in yoga several years ago, after he concluded that therapists treating psychological trauma need to work with the body as well as the mind. "The memory of the trauma is imprinted on the human organism," he says. "I don't think you can overcome it unless you learn to have a friendly relationship with your body."
In extended, you'll find a few more paragraphs from the Yoga Journal piece on Van der Kolk's efforts in this field, along with a look at recent studies and articles on the subject.
Recently, I received this request in my email box:
The Inner Resources Center of the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology is conducting a study about the effects of military participation in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the light of the current dialogue concerning the difficulties that veterans have in finding effective mental health treatment, this study is an opportunity for veterans to experience and evaluate novel treatment methods for coping with the difficulties of serving in the military and coming back home. Meditation or Education Participants will be compensated for their time. Is it possible to post the information about our study on your website?
Find all the information on the study below the fold.
An invitation from the Los Angeles Times Booster Shots blog asking us to join in on an upcoming exploration -- both in print and online via a live chat this Tuesday, August 5 -- of the difficulty many combat veterans face in getting a fitful night's sleep. (Heaven knows writers and other creatives like myself generally fall into the night owl category, too, but our lack of sleep is obviously of the less mentally draining and certainly less alarming sort.)
First, details from the Times, and below the fold you'll find a number of recently related reports that have turned up in the news and clinical journals:
Mitch Hood, 25, spent two tours in Iraq with the Marines. Now, like many other veterans, he faces a new enemy: sleep.
Hood has nightmares nearly every night, many like the one above, laced with the fear he felt when he was in Iraq. Most nights, he battles his own body's need to sleep, opting to stay awake so he doesn't fall into nightmares.
Hood knows he is not the only one with these problems. Sleep and wakefulness issues are the most common health problems described by recently returned soldiers, researchers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center found in a study published last year.
A Times reporter and videographer stayed up all night with the former Marine and his fiancee to witness his struggles. The print story will appear in Tuesday's newspaper. A video of the vigil, plus interviews with Hood and other veterans, accompany the story on the Web.
Join us for a live Web chat at noon Tuesday to discuss the influence of war on sleep and how physicians try to treat the problems. We will be doing a question-and-answer session with Dr. Thomas C. Neylan, director of the Posttraumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) Program at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and Steve Woodward, director of the Sleep Research Laboratory at the VA's National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Palo Alto.
Mark your calendars and set your bookmarks -- the chat happens right here Aug. 5 at noon Pacific time.