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It can happen without warning: you slip in the shower and hit your head, a car swerves and hits you, a small stroke occurs and suddenly you can’t speak, your mobility is limited, and your world shrinks.
These are real-life examples of the often intractable effects of traumatic brain injury or TBI. And thanks to the groundbreaking work of Dr. Mark L. Gordon and a handful of forward-looking physicians, there’s new hope for the 1.7 million Americans afflicted with this condition.
Using cutting-edge hormone replacement techniques, Gordon and his colleagues are helping to change the way we think about traumatic brain injuries, their symptoms – and how to treat them effectively. In his clinical practice, Dr. Gordon is developing new protocols that may revolutionize the devastating impact of traumatic brain injuries. One of the biggest patient populations in need of urgent care are the soldiers returning from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. Our story begins with them.
Starting with Soldiers
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is often referred to as the “signature wound” of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Traumatic brain injury occurs when a sudden trauma to the head disrupts brain function. In both these wars, however, even close proximity to the force of an explosion can be just as devastating. Most of the reported traumatic brain injury among Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans has been traced to improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.
“Traumatic brain injury can be caused by a direct impact, or by acceleration alone,” explains Dr. Mark L. Gordon, interventional endocrinologist and traumatic brain injury treatment specialist at Millennium Health Centers in Los Angeles. “Brain trauma also causes secondary injury, which takes place in the minutes and days following the injury,” he adds. “These processes include alterations in cerebral blood flow and increased pressure within the skull, contributing substantially to damage from the initial injury.”
Gordon says traumatic brain injury can cause a host of physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral effects, some of which can be difficult to detect. Symptoms can appear immediately or weeks to years following the injury. “Insidious traumatic brain injury can be difficult to detect,” Gordon says. “Localized damage to the frontal and occipital lobes occurs when the brain collides with the skull. Increasingly, we are discovering that traumatic brain injury is also a causative factor for accelerated hormonal deficiencies.” These deficiencies, says Gordon, can cause a host of psychological, physiological, and physical manifestations, including depression, outbursts of anger, anxiety, mood swings, memory loss, inability to concentrate, learning disabilities, sleep deprivation, increased risk for heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, diabetes, loss of libido, menstrual irregularities, premature menopause, obesity, loss of lean body mass, muscular weakness, and a number of other medically documented conditions.
The Army’s chief of Staff said Friday that the service has asked every medical unit to assess their capabilities in the event that they are needed to respond to areas hit hard by the potentially deadly novel coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier this week, the Army gave two combat support hospitals (CSH) — one at Joint Base Lewis-McCord, Washington, and the other at Fort Campbell, Kentucky — a “prepare to deploy order” as the U.S. government wrestles with how best to help communities if the spread of COVID-19 intensifies, Gen. James McConville told reporters at the Pentagon.
He said the Army has also given a “warning order to all our Role 3 hospitals,” facilities staffed and equipped to provide care to all categories of patients, to include resuscitation, initial wound surgery, specialty surgery and post-operative care.
“Every [medical] unit in the United States Army has been told to take a look at their capabilities and capacity so they can come back to us,” he added.
On Saturday, the Army fired a social media manager over an Instagram post relating to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
The post that appears to have been the one to bring down the wrath of higher-ups was answering a question, “Why did a man eat a bat” — seeming to refer to the theory that the virus originated from someone eating a coronavirus-infected bat in China, which hasn’t been verified.
“It wasn’t because he was thirsty,” the Army’s response said, including an emoji of a man shrugging.
The post was immediately criticized on social media for being inappropriate, with Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), an Army veteran, calling it “simply unacceptable.”
“We do not know how #COVID19 first infected humans but racism has no place in our Armed Forces,” she tweeted. “I’ll be calling @SecArmy to find out how this happened.”
According to Military Times, the post was up “for several hours before being deleted.”
As of Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins University, more 320,000 people around the world have contracted the disease — and more than 13,700 people have died.
Army researchers are working to rapidly develop and test experimental vaccines to combat COVID-19, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said.
The Army is also collaborating with the private sector and other government entities on 24 vaccine candidates, some of which are headed for human testing after having been tested on animals, he said.
McCarthy conducted a Pentagon press briefing today to discuss the Army’s efforts to prevent the spread of and find a cure for COVID-19.
The Army and other partners are working to more rapidly conduct COVID-19 testing to screen the force at a higher rate, he said. Currently, testing is at a rate of 810 samples per day and plans are to increase that to more than 16,000 per day.
The Army has nine medical treatment facilities with clinical laboratories certified to conduct testing, he noted.
In the treatment effort, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working with state governments in 13 states — and that number will reach 18 by this evening — to provide planning and concept development and increase bed space on behalf of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, he said.
Two Navy hospital ships will be part of the Defense Department’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman said.
The USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy are being prepared for deployment “as needed to assist potentially overwhelmed communities with acute patient care,” Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant to the defense secretary for public affairs, said during a news conference today at the Pentagon. He was joined at the briefing by Air Force Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Paul Friedrichs, the Joint Staff surgeon.
The Comfort is now in Norfolk, Virginia, for maintenance, and the Navy has been asked to expedite that, Hoffman said, adding that it may take “a little while” for that ship to be ready to go. It will go to New York when its maintenance is complete.
The Mercy is on the West Coast and is ready to go in “days, not weeks,” he said, and where it will go will be determined when it’s ready to sail.
The Army has set up remote facilities on Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for paratroopers returning from overseas and entering quarantine during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, division officials said.
Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division have been returning from deployments to Kuwait and Afghanistan and entering quarantine since the weekend. So far, they’ve been put up in barracks on post, with the exception of the first night, when some paratroopers returned and had to shelter in a PAX shed near the airfield typically used before parachute jumps.
The more remote facilities include “Gyms In a Box,” internet services, mobile laundry units, catered food services through a contractor, mobile restrooms and showers. Catered food includes two hot meals and a cold one, which would be a sandwich meal for lunch.
In response to the growing coronavirus epidemic, Defense Department officials are looking to safeguard the health and safety of military and civilian personnel and their families.
“The department is committed to doing our part in the administration’s comprehensive fight against the coronavirus by enhancing the safety of our personnel, helping them stay healthy, and making sure they’re able to continue executing the mission,” Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said during a Pentagon news conference this morning.
Last night, Esper issued a memo entitled “Travel Restriction for DOD Components in Response to Coronavirus Disease 2019.”
As you have likely observed in recent news reports, COVID-19 continues to spread around the globe. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with the Department of Defense (DoD), continue to assess the risks to provide guidance on the spread of the virus and the U.S. Government response. The U.S. Military Academy and U.S. Army Garrison at West Point are closely monitoring the situation.
Due to the significant changes regarding the health risks associated with COVID-19, the U.S. Military Academy will delay the return of the Corps of Cadets from spring break until March 29, 2020. We continue to encourage our cadets, staff and faculty to practice heightened hygiene measures. Some of the planned precautions include:
Isolation for those who have traveled to specific areas of concern
Implementing social distancing measures
Cadets should remain in contact with their chain of command for instructions on returning to the academy and reporting of travel. Staff and faculty should contact their supervisors for the latest information regarding their work status. If you do not feel well or are experiencing flu like symptoms, do not come to work.
The U.S. Military Academy will be temporarily closed to visitors beginning Friday evening, March 13, until further notice.
A soldier who had his tattoo touched-up over his smallpox vaccination four days after he was immunized suffered from scattered bumps, which evolved into lesions and were accompanied by a fever, aches and a suspected secondary infection, according to a case study published in February in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Military Medicine.
The tattoo made his skin tissue inflamed and immuno-compromised, allowing the smallpox sister virus he was immunized with to erupt in that tissue. This reaction is the reason why medical personnel don’t give vaccines over inflamed tissues, and illustrates the risks of poorly adhering to post-vaccination care, the case study’s authors said.
The individual’s name was withheld, but the infection occurred in a 21-year-old male soldier. He received the smallpox vaccination as part of a brigade-wide vaccination for soldiers arriving late for a nine-month rotation to South Korea.
There have only been 13 cases of tattoo and smallpox inoculation complications reported in the national Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System database over the past 15 years. In this case, the soldier’s leadership reported that he had not been wearing a bandage over his inoculation site as instructed and had been scratching it frequently.
Ed Timperlake was VA assistant secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs from 1989 to 1992, and served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a fighter pilot and squadron commander.
One of the little-known facts of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is that the nature of combat wounds has changed dramatically.
For most of human history, the most common combat wound was a piercing injury. Primitive spears, the Roman gladius, medieval lances and bullets all create piercing wounds, and battlefield medicine was largely focused on treating these types of injuries.
As an assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs during the George H. W. Bush administration, I saw up close how VA health care responded to the after-effects of these combat wounds. But in the years since, veteran care reflects an entirely new and complex type of injury.
A study published in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery in 2012 noted that between 2005 and 2009 — the early years of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — nearly three in four combat wounds were the result of “explosive mechanisms.” This fact was reflected in the Iranian missile attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq last month, which resulted in 109 troops sustaining varying degrees of head injuries.
1 US military member, 5 service members’ dependents have coronavirus in South Korea: Pentagon officials
The Pentagon confirmed that one member of the U.S. military and five dependents of various service members have coronavirus in South Korea, a senior official said Wednesday.
The infected soldier, who is a member of the United States Forces Korea (USFK), is stationed in Daegu. His wife and a small child are among the infected.
In a separate case, the widow of a retired American soldier in South Korea also contracted the virus.
Additionally, a dependant of a USFK active duty service member has been in self-quarantine since Feb. 26 and has not had contact with any other military member since then, according to a statement by the USFK.
The infected patient has been under the medical supervision of U.S. military medical providers and officials said they determining contact tracing was not necessary due to the patient’s quarantine measures and lack of interaction with others.
In the sixth case, a dependent of a Pentagon civilian employee has been self-quarantined since Feb. 28 and hasn’t had contact with anyone except her spouse, the USFK said.
“As a precautionary measure, her spouse will now be under self-quarantine at their residence,” the USFK said, adding that they are conducting contact tracing to determine whether anyone else may have been exposed to the virus.