Lifewatch: Traumatic brain injury

Reported by Claire Hosmann - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

(WECT) - Doctors who work with veterans say there is a huge lack of understanding about traumatic brain injury.

Research is limited, but a strong support system is helping veterans get back on track.

"We had a lot of explosions," said David Edwards.

An explosion in Iraq left Edwards with limited sight and traumatic brain injury.  Travis Fugate lost all his sight in another roadside explosion.

Now, Fugate is getting help with a cell phone that reads for him and even helps him text a friend.

A special GPS unit helps Edwards walk, by guiding his every step, but it's the injury you can't see which takes the longest to heal.

At the Hines VA Hospital, Laura Chalcroft specializes in assisting veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan with traumatic brain injuries.

"A lot of the strategies that we teach and they learn are strategies that they're going to have to use day to day for the rest of their life," said Chalcroft.

For Brian Sweeney, the rest of his life began 17 years ago.  He almost died from his brain injury, and doctors told his wife Mary Beth to find him a nursing home.

"Because they didn't think he was going to be able to come home and that was frightening," said Mary Beth.

What's worse is Brian suffered bouts of rage, depression, and obsession.

"The perception is you walk, you talk, you drive, you do these things, there's nothing wrong with you," said Brian.

"It was very difficult, very difficult," said Mary Beth.  "I'm not going to lie. It was a hard couple of years at the beginning."

Brian hopes his story will be able to help others.  It's the first book ever written by a victim of a traumatic brain injury.  It's called Every 21 Seconds, which is how often a brain injury happens in this country.

To learn more about support networks for veterans visit