Helping prevent traumatic brain injuries

John Jansen, a Charleston resident who attends Lake Land College in Mattoon, received a traumatic brain injury from an improvised explosive device, a roadside bomb, while he served in Iraq from Sept. 2005 to April 2006.

Jansen is a friend of Paul Reid, organizer of the veterans with traumatic brain injuries, meeting today and Friday.

Some symptoms Jansen suffers from are short-term memory loss, anger problems, insomnia and other sleeping problems, post-concussion syndrome, depression, anxiety and alcoholism, among other things.

“I have to take 15 different medications every day and have relationship problems with friends, family and my girlfriend,” Jansen said.

He said he also suffers from physical ailments such as balance problems and cannot work out for more than a half hour daily or he will pass out.

Jansen also had to have his brain rewired.

“There’s a lot of people who are having problems,” Jansen said. “It is a big deal and a signature of the war, but (traumatic brain injury) has next to no research.”

David Mulholland will speak at the two meetings.

“The meeting is supposed to focus on individuals with brain injuries, especially military ones,” said Reid. “Myself and Mulholland feel there is not enough focus on returning vets that have been in combat. We will talk about what traumatic brain injury is and what can be done to prevent it.”

Mulholland wants to try setting up support systems and rehabilitation centers.

The meetings are open to everyone and Reid hopes this will spread the word about traumatic brain injury.

“A majority of people know someone who is a veteran or someone who was in war, whether it was the Vietnam War or the Iraq war,” Reid said. “They are either related directly or non-directly.”

Reid said 20 to 22 percent of all veterans coming back to the United States from the Iraq war have traumatic brain injury.

“That’s a very high number, and with (Barack) Obama’s new exit strategy where he wants troops to leave by August 2010, a lot of people will come back with this injury,” Reid said. “We need support and focus for these individuals.”

Mulholland is the founder and president of a rehabilitation center called the Community Neuro Rehabilitation, Inc. located in Westminster West, Vt.

“He’s really going to promote this center (at the meetings),” Reid said.

Mulholland has also been trying to talk with different congressmen and senators throughout the U.S. to try to get funding for the disease.

Mulholland has also been overseas in Europe and Austria talking with different personnel.

“My personal experience with different centers and veteran’s hospitals are that they are not very sufficient to veterans’ needs and helping with their problems in a quick and swift manner,” Reid said.

Reid likes to bring so much attention to veterans because sometimes they are applauded, but the majority of the time that is not enough.

“More things need to be done for those who have made a specific sacrifice to help serve our country,” Reid said. “I would like to advocate for those who cannot advocate themselves.”

Mulholland is speaking at 5:30 p.m. today and 6 p.m. Friday in the Charleston-Mattoon room of the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union.

Heather Holm can be reached at 581-7942 or at [email protected].