With US Memorial Day having arrived and departed on Monday, I wanted to acknowledge and honor the men and women from all over the globe who have given their lives to fight for their countries in a bid for freedom in whatever shape or form. One day dedicated to them doesn’t seem enough to express the gratitude each and every one of us owes them.
Through the decades of wars, there are many who haven’t returned from their duties to see the peace or difference their contribution has made. The familiar scenario is women leaving husbands widowed and children motherless, similarly men have left wives and children behind, widowed and fatherless and lest we forget the brothers and sisters that find themselves without siblings. Those who make it home often do so with permanent injuries and scars which remain as a constant reminder and often those scars aren’t so obvious. Carrying the weight of the memories and pain every day from their experiences, seeing comrades die and the atrocities of war can manifest themselves in post-traumatic stress which never gives respite or the opportunity to be the same as before they left.
One of the causes/triggers of epilepsy is head trauma. The nature of these include: gunshot wounds, blows to the head, falls and car accidents. When one considers the life of a service man or woman, there is no doubt that there are plenty more scenarios which can bring about head injuries. Some of these can trigger epilepsy itself. It would seem the correlation between seizures related to Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or both simultaneously is approximately 70%. (This research was undertaken focusing on Iraq and Afghanistan veterans) At the US Southeast Epilepsy Centre of Excellence, in 2011 over 87,000 veterans were treated further to some form of seizure.
The seizures, (known as psychogenic non-epileptic seizures including dissociative seizures) present themselves with similar if not the same characteristics to those with epilepsy. EEG’s are the key to discovering whether the origin is in fact epilepsy. To ascertain the difference on an EEG an epileptic seizure will display abnormal brain activity whereas a non-epileptic seizure will exhibit no unusual electrical discharges. The Southeast Epilepsy Centre of Excellence continues their research in order to ascertain what type of treatment is needed. The research is more complex however, due to the prolonged duration of time the patient is required to be under observation. This unpredictability comes from the necessity to obtain information from the seizures for which there is often no pattern.
Anti-epileptic medications are regularly given which in most circumstances don’t assist with seizure control. These seizures are most often linked with some sort of psychological trauma. If depression, anxiety or other such factors accompany the trauma; it has been found in some cases that therapy can have a positive effect on the seizure regularity whether it be through medication, counseling or a social worker. It is estimated by the US Epilepsy Foundation that 15 to 34% of TBI patients suffer with Post Traumatic Epilepsy. Additionally, it is also possible that the individual may experience epileptic seizures as well. Research shows between 10 and 40% of people encounter both which enhances the importance of the EEG observation.
On returning home, settling into the realities of everyday life can be inexpressibly difficult. One of the aspects as an epileptic that I find helpful which goes across the board for anyone with a chronic illness, is the support groups. It is comforting to be with people who can relate to the experience, who can share resources and that are there as another form of support. Links to various websites and organizations arranging the support groups are listed below.
Even though veterans return from fighting it doesn’t finalize the end of their battle, in fact in some ways it may mark only the beginning. My granddad was one of those individuals who fought for his country in World War II and on his return, from the family accounts; he was a completely changed man. It was the damage acquired from the sights and experiences he’d had whilst serving in the Royal Navy that had an effect lasting his lifetime. He never spoke of what happened and turned to various means in a bid to block out the memories which no doubt haunted him every day. If there had been the research and opportunities available that there are now, perhaps life would have been different for him. However, the most important thing for me is to vocalize how proud I continue to be of him for what he did for his country. That’s why one day of the year just doesn’t do each and every one of those service men and women justice.