Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Daily Challenges of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Sgt. 1st Class Victor Medina joined the US Army in 1994 and served until 2012. He deployed three times—once to Afghanistan and twice to Iraq.

His biggest challenges today are cognitive. Victor lives with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), which he obtained when his vehicle was impacted by an IED while on patrol in Iraq. He endures day-to-day challenges that most people wouldn’t think twice about in their daily lives.

“I used to be an avid reader, but I can’t read the same way I used to. There was a time I couldn’t read at all. Then, I could read mechanically but couldn’t comprehend. I would have another student read a book and put it on a CD for me to listen to.”

Victor has to be proactive about planning ahead or he gets distracted with daily tasks.

“When putting up curtains, if I don’t lay out the tools in a neat row in the order that I’ll use them, I know I’m going to mess up at some point.”

Victor and his wife, Roxana
His memory, speech, and walking are also affected by his TBI. And he realizes it affects more than just himself—it impacts his family life, too.

“My wife understands [my challenges] and we talk a lot. When it comes to house chores, I have come to accept that I have to be supervised. Roles in the house have changed. I used to handle the finances before and now I don’t, but I compensate in other ways. I do the laundry at home. She works full time and I try to do things that make her happy because it’s going to take the weight off her shoulders.”

Victor is adamant about accepting his challenges and making the best of his situation, sharing that message with others. He explains that many survivors don’t know they’re entitled to certain accommodations because of their TBI.

Victor worked with a counselor while going to school for his Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling. They were able to determine what accommodations were needed during his studies in order for Victor to succeed.

“People are hesitant to ask for help because of the stigma. Accommodations are not taking advantage of the situation, but are very important for the community to know about. TBI is different for everyone.”

Victor stresses the importance of setting goals every day. Many times he gets overwhelmed and it reflects on his behavior, but he and his family have learned to laugh through it to do the best they can.

“Making goals is important when you have TBI. Set daily, attainable goals early in the day. Some things don’t get accomplished, but at least you accomplish one thing. If you do your best, you won’t be disappointed.”

Because TBI is so unique to each individual, Victor doesn’t want his community to feel sorry for him or pretend they know what he’s going through. Instead, he is open about his challenges. He sees it as his responsibility to advocate for others with TBI.

“No one should be afraid or ashamed of their condition—just do the best you can with it. We have to be outspoken about our conditions. There’s nothing that’s going to make a difference for me, but I can make it better for others with TBI.”

Victor currently lives in San Antonio with his wife and caregiver, Roxana.

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