• 20-JAN-2016

  • SOURCE: The Department of Defense

Defense Department's A Head for the Future videos inspire service members and veterans with brain injuries to seek help

Col. Sidney R. Hinds and Army Veteran Randy Gross
SILVER SPRING, Md. — A traumatic brain injury (TBI) awareness initiative from the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) has released new videos of service members and veterans who sought help for brain injuries. The personal stories of Ed Rasmussen, Brian O'Rourke, Randy Gross and Sue Davis can be found at dvbic.dcoe.mil/aheadforthefuture and on the YouTube channel of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.

Rasmussen, a retired Navy senior chief petty officer, experienced multiple concussions as a result of years of exposure to explosions during training. The Virginia Beach, Virginia, resident dealt with memory loss, sleep issues and behavior changes until his wife encouraged him to get checked out. Rasmussen now tells others who may have experienced a TBI to "talk to somebody you know who has one — because we're out there."

Signs and symptoms of brain injury — particularly concussion — can be hard to recognize. Experts recommend consulting with a health care provider.

"Often, individuals do not know they have an injury, and TBIs go undiagnosed," said Army Col. Sidney Hinds, the national director of DVBIC and a neurologist. "We are educating our men and women in uniform that the first step in recovery from TBI is getting checked out."

The A Head for the Future video series features service members and veterans sharing their stories of recovery from brain injury with treatment and family support.

O'Rourke, a retired Navy chief petty officer, also incurred TBIs due to explosions in training. Difficulty sleeping and irritability affected his relationships with family for years.

"I would always put the blame on everybody else," said O'Rourke, who also lives in Virginia Beach. "I was told by my wife that 'something was changing in you' — and I denied it for a while."

After O'Rourke was diagnosed with TBI, his family was able to understand his needs and worked together to help him cope.

"Those who've sustained TBIs often say they wished they'd asked for help sooner," said Kathy Helmick, the deputy director of DVBIC. "The earlier someone gets checked out, the better, and there's no reason to wait — because help is available."

When he was 23, Gross was riding in a car with his seat belt off. The Richmond, Virginia, resident sustained a TBI when the vehicle crashed.

"Putting that seat belt on would have kept me from running into the windshield," said Gross, a former Army staff sergeant.

He sought help immediately, making a full recovery from his TBI and continuing to serve in the Army until 2006. Now, Gross helps those in the military with TBI as a regional education coordinator for DVBIC.

According to data from the Defense Department, more than 330,000 service members have been diagnosed with TBI since 2000. Most TBIs are diagnosed in noncombat settings. Common causes of TBI include motor vehicle collisions, falls, training accidents and sports-related incidents. Among service members, concussions are the most common types of noncombat brain injuries.

Davis was on her bicycle when she was hit by a car. She wasn't wearing a helmet — and sustained a severe TBI "because of a poor decision," she said.

She didn't get back on a bicycle for over 20 years, but the former Air Force captain overcame her fear to participate in a charity race benefiting injured veterans. Now, Davis, who lives in Virginia Beach, rides regularly — always with a helmet — and continues to be an advocate for TBI awareness.

A Head for the Future, a multiyear initiative from DVBIC, encourages help-seeking behavior and promotes awareness, prevention of and recovery from TBI, including concussion. The initiative offers educational resources, such as information about the signs and symptoms of TBI, and fact sheets with tips about avoiding brain injuries in day-to-day activities.

Visit dvbic.dcoe.mil/aheadforthefuture to learn more, and follow A Head for the Future on Twitter and on DVBIC's Facebook page.