From the Ranch

From the Ranch

Monday, May 7, 2012

More TBI and PTSD Info You May Not Know. This is Such Cool Technology!

Sometimes the road home is long and difficult.

It finally occurred to me what resource to call about the helmet technology that I keep hearing rumors about, and that I know should be in place to help prevent at least some cases of TBI, (Traumatic Brain Injury) and PTSD, (Post Traumatic Brain Disorder) among our troops.  There is so much emphasis on PTSD being primarily a mental illness, but as I look at the latest research, that isn't what I find.  On the battlefield, and in theater in general, explosions are a constant given.  Even at the American Embassy in Baghdad where Randy is now, there are always rocket attacks, which produce the air waves of pressure that can shake the human brain enough to produce small concussions, and when those concussions occur repeatedly, the injuries become cumulative, and the condition of Postconcussive Syndrome can develop.  (see my previous blog, Things You May Not Know About PTSD.)

Psychological therapy is an important part of  treating PTSD, but that cannot detract from the growing evidence  that it can be the result of  these many small explosions, and all the other size explosions encountered by our military personnel, which produce TBI, which in turn can contribute to PTSD.  

There is more and more research every day on therapies that can help those suffering from these medical conditions as a result of their service to our country in the military.  The military has begun in earnest its program to train leadership, all those serving, and their families in the recognition of the signs and symptoms of these two diseases.  It is now of utmost importance that we begin to look at the prevention of these devastating injuries of war, and by the way, when we are passing out the purple hearts, how is the loss of a limb due to an IED encounter any different from the disruption of the normal function of the brain, which may be, and for many is, permanent?  Just because there is no screaming, or no blood, does not mean the injury isn't real, and life altering.  When a man or woman is serving their country, and they sustain any kind of injury, if it is the visible kind, or the invisible kind,  if one kind of injury  merits a purple heart, so does the other.  Another aspect of TBI and PTSD is that the onset of symptoms of these injuries can sometimes be delayed.

We came to live in Austin County, Texas in 2007 because Randy took a job with BAE Systems.  While Randy worked at BAE, he had the privilege and honor of being the Program Manager for the second generation MRAP vehicle, the Caiman.  His last boss at BAE was Chris Chambers, and suddenly it occurred to me last week who to call about what technology has been developed in the area of prevention.  Last Friday I called and left a message for Chris, and he was out of the office.  This morning he called and was able to give me precisely the information that I was looking for. 

The first step to preventing PTSD and TBI, is to determine at what point encounters with the explosions of war reach a threshold where normal brain function is affected in any way.  It seems the technology has already been developed by BAE Systems in the form of a small sensor that mounts inside a helmet.   It measures several aspects of the impact sustained by a Soldier due to explosions or other impacts sustained in combat which cause head trauma.  I can see the application as being of significance in sports equipment as well.  

Now I realize, I may be the last person on planet earth to be acquiring knowledge of this technology, because the Army has already purchased some of these sensors for helmets.  However, I can't tell if enough have been bought, according to the figures listed at the web site, to cover every Soldier in theater being equipped with one.   I'm sure that cost is a consideration in the amount of these units purchased by the Army, but they did just redesign their uniforms, so I would think that there is room for this type of spending in the budget.  I am certain that anyone suffering from PTSD or TBI today would have given anything to have worn such a sensor, which could have alerted command when they reached the limits of a safe threshold.  However, I am not certain that enough data has been collected to identify what constitutes a "safe threshold."   At any rate, go to BAE's website and view the latest technical equipment advances to prevent our military from sustaining injuries that are costly to the individual, and to the nation.

Thanks to Chris Chambers out at the Sealy BAE Systems plant for directing me to this information.  The sensor is called HEADS which stands for Headborne Energy Analysis and Diagnostic System.  I hope you will share this information with those who need it most.
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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Gabby's Poem and the Children of War

In April of 2009, on the way to a VFW meeting right before my husband, COL (R.) Randy LeCompte, deployed for war, our grand-son, Tristen, who was then six asked from the back seat, "Nana, how are we going to keep Papa Randy safe when he goes to war?"  I told him we would pray for him that God would keep him safe, because there was nothing that he and I could do, we are just human beings.  I told him we could pray that God would send angels to protect him.  I firmly believe that the earnest prayers of that little boy and others have been what has kept my husband safe for the past three years.

My daughter who served for eight years in the United States Army, married a Soldier.  After 9/11 she left the Arm,y worried that she and her husband might both be deployed at the same time.  She now works in the civilian sector of the Army.  Her husband returned from his fifth overseas deployment back in November.  They are both serving in Germany at this time.  Samantha and Gabby are my two grand-daughters who were born into this military family and have never known anything but the life of military kids. There are thousands of "military kids," and the people of our country, and other countries, should see to it that they do not stand in need of anything while their parent is absent at war.

One of the most defining moments of this conflict for me occurred when Samantha was about four or five and riding in the backseat of the car with her cousin Madie as we went to Walmart for things we needed to cook Thanksgiving dinner.  She was sitting quietly in the backseat, and asked a question that brought home to me the price of war for children who come from military families.  She asked, "Nana, does the enemy have families too?"  I knew I had to answer in honesty, and I replied," probably some of them do".  Then she asked a question I had no answer for.  She went on to ask, "Nana, if my daddy kills their daddy, who will take care of them?"

Samantha playing the Army Song at a school program, Ft. Hood, Killeen, Texas

I have wept many times, for many reasons, as I have thought again of those questions from such a small child.  I have thought of our own countries' children, the children of Coalition forces from countries around the world, the children from  Iraq and Afghanistan, and yes, the children of the enemy.  What a price these innocents have paid over the last ten plus years.

It isn't just the small children of military families that bear the burden of war.  Who more than a young teen needs their father or mother?  The older a child grows, I think the more acutely an absent parent is missed.  The award ceremonies where there is someone glaringly absent from the audience, the basketball games, the broken hearts, and the lectures that should sternly be given, fall to only one parent.  A phone call lecture just isn't the same. Nor is the congratulations offered over the phone, the same as that hug in person that says, "What a job well done!"  The suit picture of prom sent in an email doesn't feel the same as the kidding and smiling faces of proud parents as a young man leaves for prom.  There are pictures with mother, but not with father.  

There are even grown children who sacrifice holidays, birthdays, and the ability to call a parent on their cell phone for advice, or just to express their love, while a parent serves.  As with every age child of those in military service, some have had a parent return from war never to be the same again due to injuries sustained.   Some see their parent for the last time in a flag draped coffin.  Their sacrifice unnoticed or forgotten by most of the people that it was made for. 

Then there are the babies... infants born while a parent is at war.  I can't imagine labor and delivery without the father of the child I was bringing into the world at my side, but there are women in this country, and in the countries of all those who make up the Coalition Forces who have done just that.  I can vividly imagine however, the thoughts going through that woman's mind, and the state of her heart.  I wrote two poems about these babies who change everyday, who say their first words, take their first steps, cry through cutting their first teeth, and grow each day without the loving gaze of a proud father.  

 Rock Gently the Cradle Lullaby 

Rock gently the cradle of the Soldier’s baby where he sleeps.

Make certain he has no need that you have resources to meet.

Who would not with his life his son or daughter defend,

If an enemy stood in plain sight ready to make that child’s life end?

Somewhere across great oceans a Soldier tonight,

Stands for his country ready to fight.

Keeping watch to protect not only the son he left behind,

He keeps watch too for your son and mine.

For each of us, our children hold fast our hearts,

In order for them to grow up in liberty, someone to war must depart.

Remember the sacrifices of those left behind and take care should they weep.

Rock gently the cradle of the Soldier’s baby where he sleeps. 

I Came Home to My Daughter

There she lay, so warm, pink, soft, and sweet.
When first we finally did meet.

I saw so much of her mother there in her eyes,
The stamp of my own features on her countenance threatened to make me cry.

Wonder at the first sight of my darling daughter,
Swept my soul, and I knew my life she would forever alter.

Feelings too tender for the battlefield,
In that moment caused all my vigilance briefly to yield.

Then I realized more clearly than ever before,
I was called to war because of an evil good people everywhere deplore.

My newborn child and all the children of the world,
Need those of us in service, the flag of liberty to unfurl.

In my daughter’s face I saw the hope of our world and our nation,
Waiting for her contributions, which true peace will hasten.

I knew that in a land far away, where long I had stood the wall,
Children were seeing first hand our intent in the service of us all.

As they watch, I know they too will learn,
Their own hearts for peace and liberty will come to yearn.

In this the power of the enemy will disappear,
The truth of all our brotherhood will finally do away with all fear.

So though my heart longs to stay,
I will again return to the war zone in just a few short days.

In my mind, images of her gentle beauty,
Will give me strength and bring complete commitment to my sacred duty.

Talking by phone with my grand-children is always precious time to me.  I miss them more than I can describe.  Gabby in particular has such a devotion for the ministry we conduct at our little place called Soldier's Heart Ranch.  We didn't know when we first purchased the property and christened it Soldier's Heart Ranch that during the Revolutionary and the Civil War, Soldiers who suffered from symptoms of PTSD, (post traumatic stress disorder) were said to be suffering from Soldier's Heart.  We had, by accident, selected a name that would reflect the cause we would publicly dedicate our home to Memorial Day, 2012.  A statistic of war that you won't find just everywhere, for the statistics are managed so that they do not appear all together, but must be assembled to get the true picture, haunts my mind everyday, and prompts me to dedicate my life to serving families of the military.  In 2010, 462 men and women gave up their lives in combat, 468 took their own lives.  Many of those Soldiers had children too.

Our grand-daughters, whose family is stationed in Germany, will not be able to attend this dedication ceremony, and Gabby is probably the ranch's biggest fan.  When she calls me, (almost daily) all she wants to talk about is what is going on at the ranch.  Today when she called she wanted to write a poem about the ranch and "military kids."  So I helped her with making her words rhyme, and here are the results.  Read the words of a seven year old child who does not understand well the meaning of war, but none the less, has sacrificed for her country.  Someone's father or mother must go, for many of our military are women, and surely without the defense made by these men and women, none of our children will know liberty.

 Gabby's Poem  
Sometimes even a Soldier needs a quiet place to rest,
When he has worked hard and given his best.

Their children at home offer prayers to God above.
Asking Him to send His protection on wings like a dove.

God hears and answers their sweet prayers.
When their petitions are lifted for the fathers who dare.

To face evil enemies who against our country make war.
Freedom and liberty are what they are standing for.

They ask the Heavenly Father their mom or dad to defend,
As the struggle goes on to make the fighting end. 


In this photo you just have to note that Gabby insisted this day on wearing Papa Randy's boot... all day long.

Being in a military family involves many sacrifices.  The rewards can be equally fulfilling as well.  That happens if the one serving makes the time and effort to not only live a life of sacrifice and service before their children, but in that service they carefully communicate the importance of honor and devotion to sacred duty.  The other parent must also support and be committed to service.  That must be evidenced by both parents lives and all they say and do, as the reason they serve.  There is a special set of skills, a special identity, and the knowledge of how to live with purpose "above the common man," as General Douglas  MacArthur stated in his most famous speech, that is the reward that comes to the children of those who truly serve God and country.  They are empowered by the ideals lived before them, rather than being disadvantaged by the sacrifices required.  May God richly bless the children of those who serve, and may His mercy be with all the children who live with the reality of war.

 Samantha, Gabby, Brian, and Rebecca, thank you for your many sacrifices for our country.  Brian and Becky, your father and I commend you personally.  You are both persons of courage who have been through much. Thank you, and we publicly acknowledge all you have given.  Samantha and Gabby, Papa Randy and Nana have watched all you have sacrificed too, you have both done well.  We love you, are proud of you, and hope to see you all soon.


Friday, May 4, 2012

PTSD Information You May Not Know

 When my husband came home from service with the Army in the Middle East among the prophylactic drugs he had been given was "fish oil."  The Army being what it is, he wasn't told why he was being given the "fish oil," it was just, "here, take this once a day."  He thought he was being given this supplement for “heart health.”  Another medication he received was to prevent Malaria.  Seems there might have been an alternate reason for that fish oil.  Fish oil is one of the sources of Omega 3; it is also found in flax seed, and walnuts, along with a few vegetables, but the vegetables do not offer significant amounts.  There are studies that suggest that Omega 3 is preventative for the condition known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  While certainly more studies are needed, this information should be known by not only those serving in the military, but by everyone.

I vaguely remembered from nursing school that Omega 3 had to do with heart health, but when I began doing a research paper on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and its association with TBI,(Traumatic Brain Injury) I came across the true significance of this essential nutrient that the human body does not have the ability to produce on its own. I will cite the article I found most informative and user friendly at the conclusion of this blog.  The first fact that kept me glued to the entire work was the information that 40% of the brain is made of the fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid, (DHA,) Eicosapentaenoic acid, (EPA) and Linolenic acid.  These acids make up what is known as Omega 3.  Linolenic acid is also a part of the bilipid membrane in every cell of the human body.

 I have had Ankylosing Spondylitis since I was fourteen years old, and I had noted that Omega 3 is an anti-inflammatory and began taking it myself about four months ago.  I am nearly sixty years old, and I have never felt this well.  Long ago I had become accustomed to the chronic fatigue, and what the clinical description of Ankylosing Spondylitis notes as "chronic moderate to severe pain."  NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin or Motrin,) a group of drugs including Sulfasalazine, Methotrexate and Corticosteroids, and as a last resort, TNF Blockers, such as Enbrel, Remicade and Humira, are the drug interventions available for treatment of this disease. I won't go into the side effects, but one does not submit to any of these courses of treatment lightly.  I can tell how reduced the inflammation is in my body since I began taking Omega 3 by the reduction in pain, plus my CRP levels, (blood test indicating inflammation in the body,) are lowered.

This function of reducing inflammation is one of the attributes that makes Omega 3 vital in the treatment of brain injury. From the articles I have read, there are major benefits involving function and the healing of injuries to the brain produced by Omega 3.  Not only are they a part of the brain itself, these elements act in the neurotransmitter system.  That is significant in TBI and PTSD both, which our Soldiers are suffering from in staggering numbers. Their exposure to repetitive explosions, which produce TBI, by deduction makes education concerning Omega 3 something that should be a part of every Soldier’s training.  

With brain injury, one of the reasons for cell death is inflammation and edema, (swelling.)   Omega 3 has been found not only to be a part of the cells that make up the brain, but they are converted into anti-inflammatory prostaglandins.  This function is what makes them vital in treatment and recovery after brain injury. They are also significant in recovery from injury anywhere in the body.

For all the years that I worked in nursing the kind of brain injuries I became familiar with are the kind most people understand somewhat.  These kinds of injuries can cause loss of consciousness, either short term or long term, with long term producing what is known as "a coma."  The symptoms are obvious and dramatic.  Auto accidents, falls, and other such trauma produce irrefutable evidence of severe injury, and are sometimes fatal within a short period of time.  Usually there are other accompanying injuries as well.  There is another brain injury that is often encountered in childhood, which is known as your everyday vanilla "concussion."  I can remember having a concussion when I fell off a slide and my head landed on a large rock when I was about six.  I remember throwing up, feeling dizzy, and having a headache, but I have had no after affects.  Visual disturbances such as diplopia, (seeing double,) are another symptom of your garden variety type "concussion." 

When someone sustains repetitive garden variety mild concussions, a condition can develop called Postconcussive Syndrome.  Ordinary concussion symptoms disappear in two to seven days.  In PCS, longer lasting symptoms, such as mood alterations and behavioral changes, fatigue, sleep pattern changes, and poor concentration distinguish this type of brain injury from both major traumatic brain injury and plain concussion injuries.  The syndrome PCS can not only be long lasting, creating life altering symptoms, but it can also become permanent.  Of course our military sustain “concussions” routinely from the explosions they are exposed to.  A Soldier can sustain a mild TBI, (traumatic brain injury,) and not display any signs of injury at all, and be sent right back to combat duty. 

Those in the military are not the only persons affected by Postconcussive Syndrome (PCS), athletes, both amateur and professional can develop PCS.  High school football players are particularly at risk, as are boxers.  When I chat in the social medias where military folks hang out, there are always a few either active duty military, or veterans, who do not believe in PTSD.  They express, in so many words, that they feel it is really just whining Soldiers that can't cut the mustard. That really is such a display of ignorance.  What distresses me most is that some of them appear to be officers in charge of combat units. I had a technician from my satellite internet provider, who was a veteran, tell me that most of the Soldiers applying for disability because of PTSD brag about scamming the government for a hand out.  I am sure that people being people, perhaps there are some who do, but not for the most part.  I have found too much information on PTSD which proves that this condition is in part a biological injury to include  all of it in this blog entry, but I will be posting several entries sharing what I have found.  Tonight I am going to cite the articles I have read so far, beginning as I said, with the one that is most user friendly.  

 Self-education is vital when it comes to health, and that is especially true concerning any involvement in health issues with the military or the VA.  So tonight, while I am no expert on any subject I have discussed here, to me it just makes sense that if you are suffering from PTSD, the supplement Omega 3 might be a consideration for you.  I get mine in the form of Omega 3, 6, 9 from Walmart, and the cost is less than five dollars.  I am careful to choose from the brands the one that is pharmaceutical grade, which has had the mercury removed. Mercury is a problem with fish oil.  It seems our oceans are so polluted that mercury is present in fish, and can accumulate in the body of anyone eating large amounts of fish.   Since the vital requirements of the body include Omega 3, it would be a wise choice for anyone to add this supplement to their diet.  I think you will note a difference in just a matter of days.

Blast-Related Traumatic Brain Injury: What Is Known?
Katherine H. Taber; Deborah L. Warden; Robin A. Hurley
The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences 2006;18:141-145.

Psychiatric News   |   October 07, 2011
Volume 46 Number 19 page 22-23
American Psychiatric Association
Clinical and Research News

Hormone May Be Long-Sought Treatment for Brain Injuries
Leslie Sinclair

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