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Help for Brain Injuries

Many veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are coming home with traumatic brain injuries. Several Houston medical institutions are working together to treat these service members. Houston Public Radio’s Capella Tucker reports. Compared to past conflicts, more service members are returning home with brain injuries. Doctor Gerard Francisco says there are several reasons for this. […]

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Many veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are coming home with traumatic brain injuries. Several Houston medical institutions are working together to treat these service members. Houston Public Radio’s Capella Tucker reports.

Compared to past conflicts, more service members are returning home with brain injuries. Doctor Gerard Francisco says there are several reasons for this. One is because of the improvised explosive devices being used in Iraq.

“And because of the general improvement in the care they are receiving on the field, more and more of these soldiers survive so when they come back to us they have multiple physical problems and many of them have a traumatic brain injury.”

Francisco is the Brain Injury Co-Director at The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research. He’ll also be the medical director for a new partnership to treat members of the military who return home with traumatic brain injuries. It’s called Project Victory and Francisco says the goal is to provide services not currently available at the VA. Francisco says the injuries can be hard to diagnose.

“Some people with milder forms of brain injuries may not have any physical manifestations of their condition. But they have problems with their emotions, with their thinking, they may have difficulties trying to get back to work or just integrity with their family in society.”

But it should not be confused with post-traumatic stress disorder. Francisco says the two are different and require different treatments.

“Some of the features of post traumatic stress disorder overlap with the features of a traumatic brain injury. Both conditions also can co-exist. That is why a thorough screening is important because the treatment interventions for the two conditions may differ.”

It’s difficult to tell exactly how many service people suffer from traumatic brain injury, estimates range anywhere from ten to 60 percent of those returning home due to injury. The largest group are 21 years old. Also involved in Project Victory are the Houston VA and Memorial Hermann. Francisco says it was made possible by a $3 million grant from an anonymous person from California.

“That donor targeted Texas because Texas has the highest or one of the highest deployments to the middle east.”

Project Victory aims to treat 65 service people a year at no cost. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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