PBS Frontline estimates that almost half a million soldiers are afflicted with some form of traumatic brain injury (TBI). However, admittedly, that number is “hard to pinpoint,” because TBIs can easily go either mis/undiagnosed by the medical community. However, some TBIs can be deadly if left untreated, so it is vital that both civilians and veterans become acutely aware of the signs and symptoms of such a severe internal injury.

A traumatic brain injury can be categorized as any injury or collision endured by the brain. Normally, the brain will collide with the interior of the skull, causing bruising and even impaired functionality, if hit hard enough. Concussions are the most common type of TBI, but even those can be fatal over time. PBS says that many veterans are unaware when they endure a concussion, even after they have been involved in an explosion, violent combat, or other physically traumatic event that can directly impact the brain. However, even allowing a concussion to go untreated can be fatal—and many veterans endure several concussion in a row, even after their previous concussion has not yet fully healed. As a result, veterans are at a high risk of permanent brain damage, disability, and death.

A concussion causes the brain to swell, much like any other body part that has endured severe trauma. As a result of these swelling, an individual undergoes frequent and debilitating headaches, which can sometimes be accompanied by blurred or double vision, nausea and projectile vomiting, seeing spots, dizziness, and impaired motor skills. Increased swelling, brain hemorrhages, and other severe symptoms can quickly lead to irreversible brain damage, and later death.

Luckily, an Israeli study called “Reflections on the neurotherapeutic effects of hyperbaric oxygen” has documented the benefits of one of the most effective treatment methods designated to those affected by TBIs. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT), a treatment method that requires patients to enter a vacuum tube filled with up to 100% pure oxygen, has been proven to reverse the physical damage caused by traumatic brain injuries. Symptoms can subside or even disappear, and new brain tissue can actually regenerate by using this rehabilitation method.

However, finding an organization that supports HBOT is quite difficult, as scientists and medical professionals have still been studying HBOT’s success levels. For veterans, HBOT is sponsored by the VA, but veterans 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.