Do you know that you can be living with a brain aneurism and might not even know it? An article released by ABC News called “8 Everyday Ways to Have a Brain Bleed” says that if you “[smoke], [have] hypertension, [are] female or [have] a family history of an aneurisms,” you have a higher risk factor of developing aneurisms yourself. What is worse, these aneurisms can result in brain hemorrhages—“brain bleeds” that can cause vision loss, mental incapacity, and other disabilities.

How can you tell if you have an aneurism? An aneurism is a blood clot inside in the brain, and this clot ruptures “when a section of brain artery becomes weakened, resulting in stroke or hemorrhaging”. But until it ruptures, aneurisms are symptomless, so the 2-5% of the population who has an aneurism will not know about it until it either ruptures, or it appears on a CT scan.

There are several activities which can induce an aneurism to rupture according to the article. Normally, vigorous activities like exercise, sex or masturbation, and even blowing one’s nose too hard can all trigger a hemorrhage. Stress, to no surprise, can also trigger a brain bleed, which is why some cartoons portray a bulging vein in the forehead to dramatize intense rage. This sort of level of anger can certainly cause a blood clot in the brain to burst, and this stress can be induced either through life’s daily hardships, or even assisted by caffeine and other stimulants. Similarly, people can be shocked or scared so badly that their aneurism ruptures.

Considering the latter facts regarding intense fear and stress, combat veterans are quite likely to experience brain hemorrhaging if an aneurism was present at the time during combat. However, brain bleeds can also be caused by traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), which affect a large amount of combat veterans every year. Explosions, enemy fire, and other violent encounters can certainly strain and scare a soldier, causing the aneurism to rupture suddenly. Within hours, a veteran can lose any part of functionality, be it reading or other vision impairments, speaking, or following directions. Any of these results can be lethal on the frontline, which is why veteran should routinely be monitored by neurologists and undergo CT scans, in addition to keep their stress levels down.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs reports that one in five combat veterans develops Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, either during or shortly after combat. The Mayo Clinic defines PTSD as having three main categories of symptoms: “re-experiencing symptoms,” “avoidance symptoms,” and “hyperarousal symptoms”. These categories can be simplified to describe symptoms of flashbacks and nightmares, feeling of guilt and depression, and insomnia, respectively.

How can you tell if your aneurism has ruptured into a brain bleed? Professionals at Cedar-Siani say that symptoms of a brain hemorrhage include “a sudden headache,” “nausea and vomiting” (usually, many traumatic brain injuries will cause a person to projectile vomit, and do so repeatedly even when no food or liquid has been consumed), “seizures” (especially concerning if an no previous history of seizures existed,) and a general loss of vision, coordination, speech, or motor skills. Anyone (including a veteran) who thinks that they have a ruptured aneurism should seek medical attention as soon as possible, as emergency brain surgery is required for effective treatment and functionality restoration.

However, veterans who suffer from PTSD are strongly discouraged from seeking medical attention by ways of the VA. Reports released by CBS News in 2013 revealed that medical professionals associated with the VA prescribed 259% more narcotics than in 2002, and that individualized therapy had fallen by the wayside. A medical practitioner associated with the VA anonymously admitted to CBS News in a TV interview that “it is easier to write a prescription for narcotics and to just move along and get to the next patient” so that more veterans would be “treated”. This news outbreak, coupled with the 2014 VA scandal, hopefully cause ailing veterans to consult non-associated medical facilities to rehabilitate their physical and mental health.

One of those organizations is Operation: I.V, a 501(c)3 non-profit founded in 2012 that helps combat veterans heal from both PTSD as well as traumatic brain injuries. Its founder, Roxann Abrams, is a Gold Star Mother who lost her son SFC Randy Abrams in 2009. Randy took his own life after experiencing a PTSD flashback from his service in Iraq. Randy had undiagnosed PTSD- a common occurrence among combat veterans either due to mistakes made by the medical field or simply the individual’s failure to report such grave symptoms.

As a result of her son’s death, Abrams founded Operation: I.V. so that combat veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan have a place to receive treatment through a specialized “VIP”, or “Veteran Intervention Plan” program. “VIP” offers ten different rehabilitation programs, including hyperbolic oxygen therapy, service dogs, and anxiety reduction therapy. Additionally, veterans may also partake in programs such as job retraining, business mentoring, and educational assistance. Again, while there is no cure for PTSD, the programs provided by Operation: I.V. can drastically improve a veteran’s mental health and overall outlook on life.

Author's Bio: 

Abigail Fazelat is a contributing writer for Operation: I.V., a non-profit organization founded by Gold Star Mother Roxann Abrams who lost her son SFC Randy Abrams to PTSD. Randy took his own life after experiencing a wartime flashback- an experience not uncommon to any combat veteran. As a result, Abrams founded Operation: I.V. as an “intravenous of help” for other Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, and contemplating suicide. Fazelat has worked for the organization since October 2013 under a pseudonym.