A foundation called the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund is pioneering treatment for Traumatic Brain Injury, a serious condition affecting approximately 320,000 veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars since 2001.
Blast events, both from training and on the battlefield, appear to be the central cause. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, sleep disorders and tremors. TBI doesn’t just afflict the military: based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2.5 million new cases of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) appeared in 2010.
The medical community currently does not know how to effectively diagnose the injury.
The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, however, claims positive results in 92 percent of patients, and is actively raising funds to build more Intrepid Spirit Centers (ISC) to carry out treatment.
Upon construction of an ISC, the military assumes responsibility for operations. This unique arrangement means the Department of Defense, according to some estimates, is at least seven to eight years ahead of the medical community in terms of treating TBI. There are three centers in operation, and two more are set to open this year.
The goal is to build four more. Treatment starts with the diagnostic stage: physicians use advanced neuroimaging and virtual reality simulators to pinpoint injury areas in the brain, at which point caregivers employ an assortment of different therapies, including acupuncture and aroma therapy, as well as music and art therapy. Virtually everything is tailored to the individual on a psychological, biological, spiritual and social level.
Convincing members of the military the treatment regimen isn’t New-Age hocus-pocus has been a challenge, but according to Clark S. Judge, managing director of the White House Writers Group, “What overcomes it is that the centers are having success. Word gets around.” Judge is currently working on raising funds to build four additional centers. Each new center hopes to treat 1,000 patients at minimum.
Dean McGrath Jr., an attorney who represents the White House Writers Group, a Republican White House alumni firm, agreed with Judge’s assessment.
“Once they start getting successful treatments, then the fact that the treatments are a little different than conventional ones is less important than the effectiveness of the treatments,” McGrath told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
What makes the treatments so successful? A multidisciplinary team of researchers have collaborated to carefully construct therapies based on the most innovative and ground-breaking brain research. Pushing the boundaries means that sometimes the researchers don’t know exactly how something works, only that it does.
“One of their medical people did say that it isn’t clear to them why acupuncture works, but they know it does work,” Judge told TheDCNF. “They see it in results. It has some stimulating effect that leads to neuro-regeneration.”
The Fort Campbell Intrepid Spirit Center, which launched in August 2014, treats 1,800 patients a year. At Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C., 85 to 90 percent of patients are ready to return to military life after treatment.
The results are neither flippant nor fleeting. Doctors put patients through a standard battery of rigorous, neurocognitive tests before rating them as ready to return to active duty—at least as far as brain function is concerned. Staff test a patient’s combat readiness through battle simulations, and once finished, patients are ready for success in civilian and military life.
“When you’re certified as ready to return, it’s not like you’re going to be coming in to have an hour with the psychiatrist,” Judge added. “You can’t have someone flipping out in combat.”