By: Sophia Stamas
Six and a half weeks into retired Staff Sergeant Terry Saffron’s 2004 deployment to Iraq, his vehicle became disabled, and he was wounded by an improvised bomb.
“That blast is one that a decade later, still reverberates through my family, through the families of the other soldiers, through those who we lost,” says his wife Colleen.
Now she wants others to know how she deals with the changes that come along with Traumatic Brain Injury, (TBI).
“When we began to realize my role as a caregiver would not be ending with surgeries, I went through a really, really, bad time. I became the angry wife,” explains Colleen.
She says that although that anger is justified for anyone going through what she goes through, she warns it is a “terrible fuel.”
She says knowing her mission and relying on a web of support carries her through.
Part of that safety net for Fort Cavazos (formerly Fort Hood) families is the TBI Clinic on post, and the help there is not just for patients.
“We do have a marriage group and a spousal group,” says Captain Sarah Gibbons, Chief of the clinic.
Last year, about 1,000 patients came through the clinic to receive treatment
As a whole, the Army saw 12,743 active duty patients, the Guard saw 2,373, and the Reserve saw 1,264 in 2013.
“One thing we really look for is, are they able to function back with their unit and do the things that everyone else in their unit is able to do,” says Captain Gibbons.
For Terry, that day never came.
“It was a difficult thing to lose our dreams, and our plans, and our goals, and to change everything, but change is a part of life, and the only thing that doesn’t change is dead things, and we’re not dead,” says Colleen.
No matter how mild or severe an injury, she says just never give up on your soldier.
“It’s not the end, there’s so much more, and you can come out of this on the other side,” she says.
Nearly 300 thousand troops have been diagnosed with TBI since 2000.
Only 20 percent of those were actually combat-related.