Monday, November 13, 2006
Reliving The Trauma of War
I was engaged in a spirited conversation with a producer as I left CNN for Emory University to check out new technology designed to help our returning warriors through Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We were discussing what we would do if the researchers put me through the virtual reality therapy and nothing happened. After all, I had been in the Iraq war zone for only a few weeks back in 2003, nothing like the extended tours of duty of our service men and women. This, paired with the usual journalist's approach of "prove it" when it comes to new therapies, led us both to question whether we would have any video to put on the air after this trip to see Dr. Gerardi at Emory.
I wasn't ready for what would happen to my mind and body. Through this technology, which is like a video game and experienced by the patient wearing a wired-up helmet, I truly relived some of the most terrifying moments of my life, those moments when I really thought I was going to die. I could feel my heart pound and my hands shake as the therapist continued to remind me that the purpose of the simulation is to let me experience those moments as realistically as possible, but in a safe place.
I was overwhelmed by my response to this experimental treatment. I felt so out of control with real feelings of helplessness and despair at first. I felt more in control after going through the simulation a couple more times. And that's the goal - to help the military men and women, whose lives are on the line, come home and be in control of their memories and fears.
My experience gave me a new respect for the mental enemies faced by our troops and a new appreciation for the work of those trying to help them.
Tune into Anderson Cooper 360 tonight at 11 PM Eastern to see more about the experience of soliders who return from the war, only to fight equally challenging battles at home.
ABOUT THE BLOGGet a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends -- info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.