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Rig survivors' wives, kids also victims of Deepwater Horizon disaster

By Chuck Hadad, AC360° Producer
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Oil blast survivors not the same
  • "I am married to a different person now," says survivor's wife
  • Rig survivors battling PTSD, traumatic brain injury, depression and anxiety
  • Transocean does not specifically dispute their claims of injuries

AC360° has more oil spill anniversary coverage, including Anderson's anniversary interview with three rig survivors, tonight at 10 ET.

(CNN) -- For the wife of at least one survivor of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, April 20, 2010 is the day she lost her husband. Meccah Boynton-Brown says although her husband Doug made it off the ill-fated rig, he will never be the same.

"There were more than 11 lives lost that day. Yes, there are 11 people that will never come home and see their families again, and my heart is so sad for them," Boynton-Brown said. But she added, "I am married to a different person now. I will always stand by his side but it seems like his previous spirit and character will never return."

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According to medical records provided to CNN, Doug Brown has been diagnosed with a litany of mental issues from the injuries he sustained and the horrors he saw onboard the Deepwater Horizon including post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and depression and anxiety. His wife Meccah says his near-constant cycle of anxiety, frustration, anger and depression has had a profoundly detrimental effect on them and their 11 year-old daughter Kirah.

"My life has come to a stop. My daughter's life has pretty much come to a stop . . . the first thing I think Doug wants is to sleep a whole night without having a nightmare," she said.

Doug Brown worries about the welfare of his wife and daughter too. "My family is suffering from it. My daughter even has asked Mommy, my wife, 'What's wrong with Daddy? He's not acting like he used to,'" he said, adding, "I just want to go sit in the corner and just cut off the world . . . so I don't hear or think about anything that has to do with that night."

Another survivor's wife, Amanda Barron, admits she feels guilt from knowing her husband Dan could've suffered a much worse fate while, at the same time, still lamenting that he's not the man she married.

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"I love him and there's little glimpses of the old Dan, like his sense of humor, but it's his temperament and everything is totally different than what he was," she said. She added, "I feel so guilty saying . . .'I don't have the same man' you know when they, the eleven [families] don't have their husbands, brothers, uncles anymore."

Dan Barron too has been diagnosed with PTSD and depression, according to medical records provided to CNN. He witnessed one of his good friends, who he calls a "fallen brother," die right in front of him when a second explosion rocked the Deepwater Horizon rig.

"It literally picked him up . . . like a child would throw a toy . . . and he ended up bouncing off of the pedestal for the crane," he told CNN's Anderson Cooper last year shortly after the disaster. "Just to see him get blown up like that, I mean, it was, it's heart wrenching," Barron also told Cooper.

Barron says one night the psychological pain, and the guilt of surviving when so many friends did not, became overwhelming.

Witness to explosion saw a "bunch of smoke"

"I had a 6-shot pistol, and I just wanted it to be over," he said.

His wife was in bed, heard a clicking sound and jumped up in horror.

"I had a hard time getting it [the gun] from him," she said. "It was like he was playing Russian roulette to see how many times it would take to click it until the bullet went," she said, adding, "I still have nightmares."

Both survivors are suing Transocean for pain and suffering and loss of wages. While technically still employees of the company, they have not worked on a rig since the disaster and stopped getting paid by Transocean last December but do still get some health costs covered.

Transocean does not specifically dispute their claims of injuries and a company spokesman told CNN in a statement, "From the first hours Transocean has focused on providing support for its employees and the families of those who were lost aboard the Deepwater Horizon, including continued full pay and benefits for eight months following the incident and professional counseling for those in need."

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Both families worry how their children are being affected by the fallout from the disaster. The Barrons 11-year-old daughter Faith is autistic and so far seems unaware of changes in her father, but their 15 year-old son Austin has gone from being an exemplary student to getting C's and D's.

Amanda Barron says the worst moment for Austin came when he found out his father attempted suicide. "He had the hardest time with it because he loves his Dad so much," she said.

For Doug Brown and Dan Barron, Wednesday's anniversary marks a year since their lives irrevocably changed and for their wives, a year since they lost the husbands they fell in love with.

"I don't know how she stays with me, you know? I really don't," Dan Barron said of his wife Meccah, adding, "She's a saint."

Watch Anderson Cooper 360° weeknights 8pm ET. For the latest from AC360° click here.

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