Traumatic brain injuries the signature wound of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq

Troops with brain injuries face other possible problems

December  5 2008

Traumatic brain injuries have become the signature wound of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and troops who sustain them face a daunting array of potential medical consequences later on, says a report on the issue commissioned by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The report from the Institute of Medicine – a body that advises the U.S. government on science, medicine and health – said military personnel who sustain severe or even moderate brain injuries may go on to develop Alzheimer’s-like dementia or symptoms similar to Parkinson’s, a neurodegenerative disease.

They face a higher risk of developing seizure disorders and psychoses, problems with social interactions and difficulty holding down a job. Troops who sustain even mild brain injuries are more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And all are at a higher risk of experiencing aggressive behaviour, depression and memory problems.

The report urged the U.S. government to ramp up research in the area, saying there isn’t enough evidence in the medical literature – especially as relates to mild brain injuries – to determine what today’s troops face and how best to help them recover from or cope with the health problems they may develop.

“The more severe the injury, the more likely there are to be bad long-term outcomes,” Dr. George Rutherford, chair of the panel that produced the report, acknowledged in an interview from Washington.

But Rutherford said that brain injuries don’t have to be severe or involve penetration of the skull to set up a soldier for significant health consequences.

“If you have a traumatic brain injury – especially if it’s moderate or severe – you have some chance of developing a disease down the line that you would not have developed otherwise,” said Rutherford, an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco.

“For mild brain injuries, which is a much bigger group of injuries and it has a much broader scope, what we can say is for those kinds of injuries that there’s a probable association between having one of those – especially with loss of consciousness – and having depression, having aggressive behaviour … or having persistent post-concussive symptoms.”

“Like memory loss, like headaches, like dizziness.”

The panel read 1,900 studies on brain injuries looking for evidence of what troops who suffer brain injuries might face. But most of the studies relate to injuries suffered in car crashes and sports. The report says the injury picture could look different for troops who may also develop post-traumatic stress disorder from experiences in combat and that more research is needed.

The report noted that as of January 2008, more than 5,500 U.S. military personnel had suffered traumatic brain injury in Iraq and Afghanistan as a result of the widespread use against them of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

A similar Canadian figure for troops deployed to Afghanistan is not available, Maj. Andre Berdais, a senior public affairs officer with the Canadian Forces Health Services Group, said via email.

Berdais said that kind of data is not tracked by the Department of National Defence, as it isn’t “essential in supporting our primary responsibility of patient care.”

But New Democrat MP Dawn Black, who has pressed the issue as a member of the House of Commons’ defence committee, said these injuries are a growing problem among Canadian troops.

“The rates are going up,” Black said from Ottawa. “Intuitively we know. But we also know from anecdotal evidence from people in the field.”

Black said the problem was put on her radar by soldiers and their families. “I’ve met with some of them and seen it. I’ve met with some of the families and seen it.”

The force of an explosion can induce what is essentially a concussion in the brain, sending it ricocheting around within the confines of the skull.

The damage caused by even a mild brain injury can take six months to heal, said Dr. Donald Stuss, a brain expert and vice-president of research at the Rotman Research Institute of Toronto’s Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care.

Injury can be done to different parts of the brain, triggering a variety of problems. But Stuss stressed that after-effects – or whether there are any long-term problems – will vary from person to person.

“So you may end up having somebody with a head injury who recovers perfectly and then afterwards has tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and dizziness from inner ear problems…. You may have some who end up with long-term memory problems,” he said.

Stuss said the key is to identify people with the problem and start treating them quickly.

The Forces’ Berdais said troops who have been exposed to explosions and may have suffered blast-induced injuries are screened for traumatic brain injury. Those found to be suffering from it are removed from active duty while they are symptomatic to prevent the risk of a repeat injury that could compound the insult on the brain.

And he said the Canadian Forces’ new physical rehabilitation program is in the process of developing policies and procedures for troops who continue to show symptoms of traumatic brain injury despite having received care.

Psychologist Gerrit Groeneweg, executive director of Calgary’s Brain Injury Rehabilitation Centre, said people suffering lingering problems from traumatic brain injuries can benefit from being taught coping techniques – strategies for improving memory and training to help overcome problems with attention.

But finding out how to best treat traumatic brain injuries among troops remains a challenge, said Dr. Greg Passey, a psychiatrist with Vancouver Coastal Health Services who spent 22 years in the Canadian Forces and who now specializes in treating PTSD.

“We don’t have a really clear understanding of what the potential long-term effects are,” Passey said.

“Because some of our soldiers have been exposed – they’re getting blown up more than one time. And although they don’t have significant outward physical injuries, you can certainly develop things like post-traumatic stress disorder or other types of psychological or psychiatric disorders.”

Source

Those who go to war can suffer so many different problems.

There is  Depleted Uranium, which caused many problems. Then  you have  LandminesCluster Bombs and other types of bombs and there are many. Many types of weapons could be deafening or deadly.

Troops can be exposed to so many things.  If or when they come home they need the best treatment and deserve it.

They should not be ignored as the ones from the First Gulf war. It took  17 years for the US to say well yes they are sick. There is such a thing as Gulf War Syndrome. Well 17 years is too long for any soldier to wait.

The US however will not stop using  Depleted UraniumLandminesCluster Bombs.   They say they have a purpose. The only purpose of these weapons are to kill and they kill long after the wars are over.

Other countries are in the process of eliminating these weapons however. Those who refuse to stop using them are the ones, who need to be pressured into stopping their use.

Of course troops  going to war in any country with the US will be exposed to these types of weapons. What a shame.

If I am not mistaken the first two British soldiers to die in Kosovo were killed by a cluster bomb. If they had not been used those two soldiers may still be alive today.

In the Old Days they had something called Shell Shock
“By 1914 British doctors working in military hospitals noticed patients suffering from “shell shock”. Early symptoms included tiredness, irritability, giddiness, lack of concentration and headaches. Eventually the men suffered mental breakdowns making it impossible for them to remain in the front-line. Some came to the conclusion that the soldiers condition was caused by the enemy’s heavy artillery. These doctors argued that a bursting shell creates a vacuum, and when the air rushes into this vacuum it disturbs the cerebro-spinal fluid and this can upset the working of the brain.

Some doctors argued that the only cure for shell-shock was a complete rest away from the fighting. If you were an officer you were likely to be sent back home to recuperate. However, the army was less sympathetic to ordinary soldiers with shell-shock. Some senior officers took the view that these men were cowards who were trying to get out of fighting.”

Well many today are still called Cowards because, they become mentally ill. When will that ever change?

Many are still being sent back to war, that should not be sent back.  War caused problems mental and physical. It always has and it always will. This problem is not new, but very old indeed.

They are still exposed to many dangers. They are not cowards they are sick. War makes people sick.

They need all the understanding and help they can possibly get.

They should never be ignored.  Their needs are very real.

Governments cannot hide the truth forever.  Someone is always watching.

Canadian Forces not tracking incidence of brain injuries, hearing loss

Elusive threats boost PTSD risk in Afghanistan

Gov’t Study Concludes “Gulf War Syndrome” is Legitimate Condition, Affects 1 in 4 Vets

Landmine Treaty Ignored, 5,400 killed or injured in 2007

November 21 2008
15 countries including Britain will miss their 2009 landmine clearance targets
Greece, Turkey and Belarus continue to violate an international treaty by not destroying their stock of landmines, according to a report that says more than 5,400 people were killed or maimed by landmines last year.

The Landmine Monitor Report released by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) says that 15 other countries including Britain will miss their 2009 clearance targets.

According to Stuart Casey-Maslen, editor of the Landmine Monitor, “It is not acceptable that [these] countries have failed to clear a single mined area in the last nine years and expect to be granted extensions,” he told reporters ahead of a meeting of the treaty’s 156 signatory states to be held in Geneva next week.

The ICBL report says that anti-personnel mines, cluster munitions and other ordnance can lie dormant for decades before exploding.

While trade in landmines is now virtually non-existent, many countries are moving too slowly to get rid of the crippling weapons, the 1,155-page report said.

The ICBL, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997, said that while Denmark, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Peru, Britain and Venezuela, are seeking more time to clear their mined areas, de-mining operations should have been finished by now.

But Britain has not even begun mine-sweeping in the Falkland Islands, where it fought a war with Argentina in 1982, while Venezuela has said it gains some benefit from mines that keep Colombian guerrillas off its territory, Casey-Maslen said.

Greece and Turkey have a combined stockpile of 4.2 million anti-personnel mines, and Belarus has 3.4 million yet to be destroyed under the Ottawa Convention, which regulates the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines and monitors their destruction.

Source

A lesson in landmines

IN DEPTH: Landmines


Sad Plight of Landmine Blast Survivors

Uganda, Africa

November 21 2008

Government pledging to help victims, often shunned by friends, families and employers.

By Gloria Laker Aciro in Gulu (AR No. 193, 20-Nov-08)

Irene Laker said she’d had a restless night because her village near Gulu had just been attacked by members of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA.

In the morning, she walked out the back of her house. “As I moved, [there was] a big bang. I had stepped on a landmine the rebels had planted at night,” she said, recalling the incident in May 2001 that wrecked her life.

Laker was taken to the local Lacor Hospital, where her leg was amputated. After two months, she was fitted with an artificial limb donated by an Italian organisation.

Over the years, thousands of people in northern Uganda have either been maimed or killed by landmines and other forms of unexploded ordnance such as hand grenades and mortars.

Laker, now 29, said her life was devastated by her injury. The man she was set to marry called off the wedding when he saw her condition in hospital.

Then she said all her good friends deserted her and finally she lost her job.

“Before the accident, I had got a job as secretary in the office of the resident district commissioner. But when I reported for work one day, I was told to leave because I had become disabled,” she said.

Women have been particularly hard hit by the landmine problem, say experts, because they generally are the ones who gather firewood and cultivate gardens.

William Odong, a Gulu district councillor who represents people with disabilities, said women constitute 70 per cent of landmine cases in the north.

“The fact that … women are more engaged in agricultural work, collecting fire wood, and fetching water [puts] them [more] at risk of being hurt,” he told IWPR.

Women with amputated limbs are often shunned by family and friends.

“Most of the women who are victims of landmines have been abandoned by their husbands, who either marry another woman or send them away,” he said.

Small children are also victims of landmines, says Odong, because they accompany their mothers to collect firewood, work in gardens or go to fetch water.

He adds that landmine survivors can also face workplace discrimination because some jobs can’t be performed by the disabled, and some are disqualified simply because of discrimination against amputees.

“People see landmine survivors as a [undesirables] and try not to get close or give them support,” continued Odong. “Unless we move away from this kind of behaviour, the survivors will never be happy.”

Odong was also critical of demining operations which he said wait for people to report suspected landmines rather than go out searching for them.

He says it’s risky to have villagers look for landmines and other unexploded devices – something that should only be handled by experts.

Mark Livingstone, a landmine expert with a Danish de-mining group, said progress has been made to remove these hazards from northern Uganda during the past couple of years.

“We have deployed more men on the ground lately in smaller teams so that they can identify, respond and clear larger areas a lot faster,” he said.

“However, the main threat in northern Uganda is unexploded ordnance, [as] people move back to their villages and start to clear the ground for agriculture.”

More is being done to warn locals of the dangers of landmines and other unexploded devices, he says, through school programmes and local radio.

“We teach them that if they see an object like a landmine, they should mark the area … and quickly report [it], [so we can] move to verify and detonate,” he said.

But, said Livingston, the de-miners fear that in the next year more casualties are likely as people clear more land for cultivation.

Despite the setbacks, life has begun to improve for some landmine victims.

Laker, for example, joined the Gulu-Amuru Association of Landmine Survivors and now works with the organisation as a secretary, helping to set up support projects for victims.

One such project provides small solar panels to victims who live in villages where there is no electricity. The survivors earn money by using the panels to recharge mobile phone batteries.

Association coordinator Stephen Okello, who is also a landmine victim, said others are engaged in bricklaying, pig-raising and poultry projects.

In addition, homes are being built for some victims in Gulu and Amuru – and the first 15 are almost complete, says Okello.

More help may also be coming from the Ugandan government.

Gulu resident district commissioner Walter Ochora says documentation of victims of war who have lost limbs or been mutilated began last year.

“Victims of war including landmine survivors are faced with a number of challenges,” said Ochora. “They are categorised as persons with special needs, and soon all will be compensated by government of Uganda.”

Gloria Laker Aciro is an IWPR-trained reporter.

Source

The Ottawa Treaty (also known as the Convention On The Prohibition Of The Use, Stockpiling, Production And Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines And On Their Destruction) bans the use of anti-personnel mines around the world.

In 1992, Handicap International and five other NGOs, completely appalled by the suffering and the horrifying consequences of the use of anti-personnel mines on civilians, decided to create the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). For Handicap International, the decision to take part in the creation of ICBL was motivated by the fact that our staff saw daily victims of landmines in countries such as Cambodia or Kosovo.

Three years later, in March 1995, Belgium became the first country to ban anti-personnel landmines. This brave move bya small country was the result of a fruitful cooperation between Handicap International and two visionary members of the Parliament.

By March 1997, 53 countries had announced their support for a total ban on landmines, 28 countries had renounced of suspended the use of mines, and 16 began destroying some of their stockpiles.

By September 16, 1998, the Treaty to Ban Landmines, which had been opened for signature in December 1997, had been ratified by the 40 countries required to make it a binding international convention. The treaty entered into force on 1st March 1999, faster than any international treaty in history. The Treaty:

  • prohibits the manufacture, trade and use of anti-personnel mines
  • obliges countries to destroy stockpiles within 4 years and clear their own territory within 10 years
  • urges governments to help poorer countries clear land and assist landmine victims

The Treaty to Ban Landmines has already had some tangible effects on the production and trade of landmines, even among countries that have not yet signed the treaty. By 1999, only 16 of the original 54 mine-producing countries continued to manufacture anti-personnel landmines or their components, and all traditional exporters of mines, except Iraq, have officially ceased their activities.

As of 20 March 2006, there are 154 signatories/accessions to the Treaty more than two-thirds of the world’s nations. Those who have still not signed include the US, Russia, China, Pakistan, Finland and India.

Map of the countries that signed the Treaty to Ban Landmines


A landmine victim every hour in the world

  1. • Indiscriminate: landmines kill and maim civilians, soldiers, peacekeepers and aid workers alike. Landmines lie dormant in the ground and become a permanent threat to civilians in peacetime.
  2. • Inhumane: It is estimated that there are between 15,000 and 20,000 new casualties every year. Many people die in the fields from lack of emergency care. Those who survive will most likely suffer from amputations, will face long hospital stays and require extensive rehabilitation. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed or injured in the last decades.
  3. • Development disaster: landmines deprive people in some of the poorest countries of land and infrastructure. Landmines also hold up the return of refugees and displaced people. They hamper reconstruction and the delivery of aid, whilst killing livestock and wrecking the environment.
  4. • Landmines are everywhere: 84 countries and 8 territories are affected in the world. Afghanistan, Angola, Bosnia, Cambodia, Chechnya and Iraq are some of the worst affected countries.
  5. • Still work to be done: Landmines are still being planted today and minefields dating back decades continue to lie in wait of innocent victims. Over 10 countries are still producing landmines.


Source

War “Pollution” Equals Millions of Deaths

Published in: on November 24, 2008 at 1:44 am  Comments Off on Landmine Treaty Ignored, 5,400 killed or injured in 2007  
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