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Soldiers Get Crash Course in Dealing With Traumatic Brain Injury

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- Giving soldiers the best chance of survival and a future after their service is the Army's goal with a program focusing on Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
Shrapnel took my right eye. I had a bunch of fractures in my forehead, my nose, my cheeks, blunt trauma to my left eye, which, as an end result, I was left legally blind.
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- Giving soldiers the best chance of survival and a future after their service is the Army's goal with a program focusing on Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

Leading neurological experts visited Fort Leonard Wood Thursday to teach those soldiers and their commanders about traumatic brain injuries; how to spot them, and when and where to seek treatment.

Those experts say quickly acknowledging the possibility of a traumatic brain injury and getting a screening can change lives. It can mean the difference between a recovery and making matters worse.

Many soldiers and every day people receive blows much less severe than the story you are about to read but put them selves in danger by doing nothing.

"In October 2006 I was a platoon leader in Iraq with the 5th Engineer Battalion while on patrol looking for IEDs,” says Cpt. Joe Bogart. “One detonated within five meters of my vehicle."

Bogart survived the blast of that improvised explosive device, but not without lasting wounds.

"Shrapnel took my right eye,” he says. “I had a bunch of fractures in my forehead, my nose, my cheeks, blunt trauma to my left eye, which, as an end result, I was left legally blind."

Bogart was treated at Walter Reed Hospital, but the injury to his eyes made it difficult for doctors to determine what happened to Bogart's brain.

"At that point, the world was still almost entirely dark,” says Bogart. “Obviously I received a concussion because I did not remember the events."

It was Bogart's wife who noticed her soldier wasn't the same; dizziness, moodiness, operating in a state of constant frustration.

Now 24 years into his Army career, Bogart sits among other soldiers learning about traumatic brain injury. It’s new information for old wounds.

"Now they say the signature wounds of the warriors we have now have been TBI and Post Traumatic Stress and those have been around in all of our wars," Bogart says.

The Army's lesson now don not guess or second guess about the bump, blow or jolt you received get screened.

"We're a lot more aware that people are sustaining concussions and other types of traumatic brain injury and that is an issue because some individuals, if they don't get treated, if they don't get screened and then entered into medical treatment soon they may be at increased risk for longer symptoms,” says Dr. Stephanie Maxfield Panker.

Bogart deployed a second time to Iraq in 2008 and found peace with his injuries and his service in the same building where he sits on this day.

“Actually, it was this building that we're standing in here that we did our welcome home ceremony in. And walking in and hearing that roar of the crowd, was a huge moment of closure for me as a wounded soldier,” says Bogart.

Bogart says this day is a valuable lesson for soldiers, getting help is not a sign of weakness.

"Take care of yourself so you can take care of your battle buddies," says Bogart.

Bogart served in Kosovo, Germany, Panama and Iraq twice.

Now, along with his daily work, Bogart mentors other wounded soldiers. He says the information in this symposium is another valuable tool soldiers can carry into battle.



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