Monday, November 13, 2006
The Iraq war's signature injury
I had never heard of a "polytrauma"center until I received some background information on just such a facility in Palo Alto, California.

Just like it sounds, a polytrauma center is for people who have serious injuries on multiple parts of their body, including their brain. There are four polytrauma centers in the United States, and they were created to deal with the horrific kinds of injuries our soldiers are sustaining in Iraq. The truth is that before Iraq there wasn't a huge need for these centers. In past wars, soldiers would have died from most kinds of polytrauma. However, thanks to incredible advancements in battlefield medicine and body armor, seriously wounded soldiers able to survive much more often than in the past.

During my visit to Palo Alto, I met two people who represent what some are calling the "signature injury" of the war caused by the "signature weapon." Both have traumatic brain injury caused by IEDs -- improvised explosive devices. The IEDs are usually hidden and strike without warning. It surprised me that sometimes victims don't even realize they've been badly hurt. Indeed, that was the case of one of the men we profiled. The IED created a pressure wave that rattled his brain against his skull. He eventually returned home not realizing there was anything wrong, until he started noticing he was having problems with his memory.

The federal government sometimes gets criticized for its treatment toward veterans and injured soldiers. However, the center in Palo Alto is a shining example of what the government does well. Its facilities are top notch and the staff is highly competent. Most important, however, the wounded soldiers told me how wonderful they're being treated during their time of need.
Posted By Dan Simon, CNN Correspondent: 10:19 AM ET
  19 Comments
Again, another solid example of positive news in the midst of the pessimism surrounding the war in Iraq; ace reporting!
Posted By Anonymous Schuyler Deerman, Berlin, Germany : 10:37 AM ET
hello dan thank you for the information now we know that the goverment still doing a great job for our veterans or soldiers and we should be thankful also for the doctors and staff of polytrauma center.
regards to Mr. Anderson Cooper and to the staff and crew of AC360.
Posted By Anonymous Jemillex Bacerdo Chicago, IL. : 11:12 AM ET
Probably a stupid question here but who pays for the treatment? Is health care supplied by the military for the veterans and soldiers? Or do the families have to carry the burden?

We have free health care here in Canada and it's never a question that you get the best care available and that the government will pay.....not to rub it in or anything ;-)
Posted By Anonymous Em, Toronto, Ontario, Canada : 11:15 AM ET
Hi Dan,
Thank heavens for the polytrauma centers. Our active troops and Veterans need the best care that can be given. That's now and for the rest of their lives. In my opinion, we owe them everything..They give and gave us freedoms we take for granted far too often. Including the right to spout off on this blog..which I'm guilty of doing right now. Thank you to those in the military. Your service is appreciated. Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 11:37 AM ET
Veterans injured in battle are cared for by the medical provided by the military benefits program. Since injured on duty it is the package inwhich is provided for them. Bottom line it's the tax payers who pay for their care.
Posted By Anonymous spouse, Pensacola Fl : 11:46 AM ET
As stated above, great news! Too bad this type of news doesn't fly higher on the web site "bullets" and evening news shows!
Posted By Anonymous G. Zimny, Lyman, Wyoming : 11:50 AM ET
It is really great that they can receive such wonderful treatment. But I think calling this good news about the war is a bit much. The war necessitates the need for these centers in the first place, so isn't it bad that we need one, let alone four of them? And yes these guys are covered by the government. All U.S. military personnel and their dependents are covered by military health plans. Dependent children get coverage until the age of 18 unless they go into college. Then, they get covered until their 23rd birthday. Unfortunately, this system has also been bitten by the HMO bug and is beginning to suffer the same maladies of civilian HMO setups.
Posted By Anonymous Chris Byron, Seattle, Washington currently residing in Taichung, Taiwan : 12:18 PM ET
Good Morning Dan~
The polytrauma center sounds like a exceptional facility. Thank God we are adapting to these modern day war injuries from IEDs. The federal government is to be commended for their effort in saving these injured soldiers lives. The proof comes in the testiment of the wounded soldiers who speak of the wonderful treatment they recieve. Call me a dreamer, but I am still praying for the day we don't need such faclities. It can't come soon enough.
Posted By Anonymous Betty Ann, Nacogdoches TX : 12:19 PM ET
I know Sanjay did talk about the research that is going forward on the type of rebound brain injury that is present in many of our returning Vets. It would be interesting if every soldier who has been exposed to the percussion of explosions and weapons had a CT on return and then track the out comes long term including adjustment to the world.

Amen to the praise for the care that the critical are getting.
Posted By Anonymous linda, bella vista,ar : 12:28 PM ET
It's great to hear an unbiased, positive war report, especially coming from a newsroom with a reputation (fair or not...) for left-leaning war reports.
Medical care is completely covered for war veterans, and despite the complaints of some, we have never run into red-tape when needing specialty care for our dependent family members.
Anderson, I would love to see a piece on the Wounded Warriors Center here aboard Camp Pendleton. I don't see it getting nearly the credit deserved for its dedicated staff and recovering Warriors.
Posted By Anonymous MSgt's Wife, Temecula CA : 1:04 PM ET
This is great, but remember that we are in an active war. How long before these Vets are turned away from the centers just like their Nam era brothers? In a few years, how many will be fighting for treatment that common sense says they should get. And what about others who may have delayed symptoms?

My prayers are with all of our Men and Women and their families. Bless you for your sacrafices, that we may be free.
Posted By Anonymous Renae, Appleton, WI : 1:14 PM ET
Hey Dan,

I think it's great to see that different technologies are able to spare lives and that the wounded are cared for and given back their lives. But it is overwhelming to see the injuries. I watched "Combat hospital" this week-end. Pain,sorrow,courage,hope,all tangled up. It is unsettling to see the number of men/women coming back injured. I realize it is better than have them back in body bags.Canada is used to have a role of peace keepers. It'a new role for us in Afganistan and half the Canadians are against it. If we were more informed maybe it would change but our PM makes sure he controls the media. I,myself, am struggling with it. I know that most of the refugees in the world are from Afganistan,that women do not exist under the Talibans. I know that our army is doing more than battling. They teach, help development,train Afgan army and police.
I saw Sarah Chayes("The punisment of virtue",I just bought it) last night on a french speaking show in Mtl,saying that because of the Canadian army, she is able to do her work. She founded in may a company,she hires Afgans(go see www.arghand.org).
I am not comparing Iraq and Afganistan nor our armies or the death toll. I'm just trying to make sense of it all, search my soul, push my own moral boundaries. To all men and women serving,Americans,Canadians,etc...all my respect and affection to you and your families. CNN & Anderson, keep us alert and on top of the stories. We need to be push over our confort zone so we always remember that some of our countrymen/women are paying a high price to make the world a safer place.
Thank you,

Joanne Ranzell
Laval Quebec
Posted By Anonymous Joanne Ranzell Laval Quebec : 1:17 PM ET
Excellent reporting! I'm glad to know that when our soldiers are injured the medical technology has kept up with the damage caused by "new" and "improvised" weapons.

I watched Combat Hospital last night, and was amazed at the level of care available in the green zone. I'm very impressed with the knowledge and compassion of the medics, whether they are caring for our soldiers, or Iraqi civilians and insurgents.
Posted By Anonymous Deb, Richmond VA : 1:36 PM ET
This is a find description of something the government is getting right, but it doesn't change the fact that if George Bush hadn't lied his way into an unnecessary war, none of those kids would have been injured in the first place!
Posted By Anonymous Rich C. Ambler, PA : 3:07 PM ET
I find this article very moving. My husband and I both served in Desert Shield/Storm in 1991. We had know choice of one staying home. we both deployed to SWA at the same time. Family member took care of our only child a two year old boy. We were only deployed and seperated six months from our 2 year old. The permanent damage it caused our son was not known until he killed himself at age 17. The military all branchs need to do research on the damage caused to the children when both active duty spouses are deployed at the same time. Our family member took excellant care of our son, but know one can replace mom and dad and your child knows it and wonders why they were left to begin with. Even at 17 our son could not understand fully that parents work and are seperated from their children at times. I pray and hop all of their child do not have long term damage caused by the parents deployed together. The sorry fact is only time will tell and then it is too late. Good luck.
Posted By Anonymous Gysgt Retired, Quantico, VA : 3:21 PM ET
Hi Dan

Thanks for your great report. My question is for how long would this care center, care for these soldiers !?

Im sure they all has serios injuries that would prevent them from working and supporting them selfs. What help dose the goverment offer regarding this issue ?

Thanks Again
Posted By Anonymous Senaia.com Cluj Romania : 5:33 PM ET
To Senaia.com:
If a servicemember is permanently disabled during active duty, they will receive disability benefits for life, the amount depending on the severity of their disability. They are also eligible for vocational rehabilitation programs, which give them the skills necessary to find suitable work, if they are still able to work but limited in the types of work they can perform.
Their medical care is covered through the VA hospital networks, for as long as they need it. There is no cost to the soldiers at any point. Our government understands they bear the responsibility when lives are put in danger, and takes making them financially and physically as safe as possible very seriously.
Posted By Anonymous MSgt's Wife, Temecula CA : 5:52 PM ET
As a family member of a returned soldier (from his second tour), I am grateful for the information you're providing. My concerns for him post-war are far greater than they were in the war. I work with PTSD victims and veterans as a counselor in the mental health field, and returning from battle isn't always this joyous experience we want to believe. It sometimes takes years of therapy to get through the trauma experienced while in combat situations.

The fact that these polytrauma units can save so many is amazing. The learning opportunities provided in these facilities for medical personnel to help all Americans who survive serious injury from accidents has to be phenomenal. Those lives and that potential is the good from all the damage caused by this war. I only hope these units address the long-term psychological issues surviving trauma can produce beyond the PTSD from combat. Our soldiers and their families deserve as much help as they need for as long as it takes for them to return to some sense of normalcy.
Posted By Anonymous TA Cheramie, Berwick, LA : 6:52 PM ET
I can say I am proud that we have such a resourceful center for injured veterans. There is a need for new technical precedures in these places, so when people find out about these types of facilities it gives definate inspiration.
Posted By Anonymous israel, raleigh, nc : 12:34 AM ET
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