Thousands Of Troops Coping With Brain Damage, Uncertain Futures

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The war in Iraq is not over, but one
legacy is already here in this city and others across America: an
epidemic of brain-damaged soldiers.

Thousands of troops have been diagnosed with traumatic brain
injury, or TBI. These blast-caused head injuries are so different
from the ones doctors are used to seeing from falls and car crashes
that treating them is as much faith as it is science.

"I've been in the field for 20-plus years dealing with TBI. I
have a very experienced staff. And they're saying to me, 'We're
seeing things we've never seen before,"' said Sandy Schneider,
director of Vanderbilt University's brain injury rehabilitation
program.

Doctors also are realizing that symptoms overlap with
post-traumatic stress disorder, and that both must be treated. Odd
as it may seem, brain injury can protect against PTSD by blurring
awareness of what happened.

But as memory improves, emotional problems can emerge: One of
the first "graduates" of Vanderbilt's program committed suicide
three weeks later.

"Of all the ones here, he would not have been the one we would
have thought," Schneider said. "They called him the Michelangelo
of Fort Campbell" - a guy who planned to go to art school.


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