Updated: December 12, 2012 6:28AM
All of our ‘wounded warriors’ deserve ongoing care, support
In November, we mark a day to honor and remember the men and women who have defended our country through military service. Because of their sacrifices, we have enjoyed liberty and freedom for more than 200 years.
A lesson we learned from the Vietnam era is the importance of recognizing and supporting our veterans when they return home from their service. Given prolonged conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, we now have thousands of veterans back in their communities. As a physician, I am particularly interested in making sure that we meet their health care needs.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the acute inpatient rehabilitation unit at Walter Reed Hospital. This was an unforgettable event. The courage and determination of the returning “wounded warriors” who were dealing with horrendous, life-altering injuries were inspiring.
I spent some time at the bedside of a young man who grew up on a farm in Kansas and whose goal was to return home and help his family. He had been a turret gunner in an armored vehicle that was blown up by a roadside explosive in Iraq. His buddies saw him launched out of the vehicle, suffering severe injuries.
Because of the incredible capabilities of modern military medicine, his life was saved but at the cost of both of his legs and an arm. He had made tremendous progress in learning how to compensate for the loss of his limbs, even to the extent he believed that he could operate farm equipment with the aid of adaptive devices. His greatest disability, however, was the traumatic brain injury that had clouded his memory and caused outbursts of emotional rage.
We must recognize that as our veterans return to civilian life, they and their families will be seeking, and indeed expecting, continued care and support for their service connected injuries — both seen and unseen. By unseen, I’m referring to traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-combat depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that may be complicated by other service-related conditions.
The Illinois State Medical Society is calling on community physicians to be aware of the special needs of our “wounded warriors” and do our part to make sure they don’t “fall through the cracks.”
Let’s honor our armed forces members on this Veterans Day by working to ensure we serve them the way they served us.
William N. Werner, MD
President, Illinois State Medical Society