Tuesday, June 3, 2008

"Slow Healing" by Andrew Hida will be showcased this Thursday as a part of CoCA's After Dark programming

Six years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan have produced a new population of soldiers suffering from traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Returning to civilian life from even a mild TBI may result in permanent emotional and cognitive problems that reverberate through the lives of soldiers, their family, and their community. Often undiagnosed, or misdiagnosed as symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) TBI remains a complex injury due to its occult nature. Like a viral strain, there is no singular definition of TBI as its symptoms manifest itself independently from victim to victim. With the improvement of body armor, survival rates increase although leaving vulnerable the unprotected extremities, and head. Usually the consequence of blasts from improvised explosive devices (IED), TBI is commonly associated with comorbid conditions, resulting in polytraumatic injuries.

The Department of Defense, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates 20-30% of injuries sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan are mild to severe TBIs. As every war has its defining medical signature, TBI has shown to be the resounding injury of these conflicts as IEDs become the weapon of choice against our troops. As we enter the fifth and sixth year of these wars, a new population returns to an altered reality defined by the challenges, and lingering effects of TBI.

Recovery from TBI can be painfully slow, and entirely elusive, affecting not only its victim, but also his surrounding community. Beyond its physical consequences from neurological to physiological functioning, its mental and psychological effects result in personality shifts, emotional instability, and a general loss of cognitive function. Families are often torn apart as interpersonal relationships fail, familial roles change, and life adapts to the victim's limitations and struggles. Navigating through the labyrinth of medical care while simultaneously learning to reintegrate their loved one back into a life of normalcy becomes an everyday challenge.

At the age of 36, Jason has had a 16-year career as an Army Ranger where he was severely injured in Afghanistan in 2005. Since sustaining a TBI, his return home has been nothing short of a tragedy. Initially forgotten about by the DOD, Jason now suffers from epileptic seizures, loss of his left eye, lost vision in his right eye, and severe chronic head pain as a result of his traumatic brain injury. Three years since his injury, scores of doctors have been unable to relieve his pain and suffering. His caregiver and wife, Suzetta, now cares for their two kids, manages the household, and fights constantly to discover what is wrong with her husband. Their compelling story reveals their pain and struggle, and triumphs and happiness as they hope for a better future.

"Slow Healing: Jason" is one chapter of the "Slow Healing" multimedia documentary tracing the return of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffering from TBI.

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