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Thousands of British troops ‘have untreated brain injuries after being blown up’

Troops in Afghanistan

EXCLUSIVE: Doctors and scientists warn failure to properly treat troops with blast-­related trauma is national scandal as many are wrongly diagnosed and at risk of suicide.

By Sean Rayment
8 Aug 2020

Thousands of British soldiers could be suffering from ­untreated brain injuries after being blown up while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Sunday People can reveal.

Doctors and scientists say the failure to properly treat troops with blast-­related traumatic brain injuries is a national scandal.

Many of those suffering have been wrongly diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and could now be at risk of suicide and depression.

The Sunday People has also learned that three members of the SAS were forced to pay for their own flight to the United States to get treatment not ­available in the UK.

The Ministry of Defence’s treatment of traumatic brain injury is based on a 10-day course where patients are taught how to cope with the symptoms.

Three members of the SAS were forced to pay for their own flight to the United States to get treatment not available in the UK (Image: PA)

But in the United States, soldiers have brain scans using new technology and are then treated with hormones which can repair damaged brain tissue.

One UK trauma psychotherapist who works with wounded troops believes the failure to properly treat brain damage has led to a surge in military suicides.

US defence chiefs believe that up to 20 per cent of all troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan could have a ­traumatic brain injury (TBI).

America’s Defence and Veterans Brain Injury Centre has reported that more than 400,000 troops have ­suffered it since 2000.

By comparison, the MoD says that only 737 troops have been diagnosed with TBI after ­serving in the same wars.

Around 180,000 British troops served in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last  17 years and many did ­multiple tours.

UK trauma psychotherapist who works with wounded troops believes failure to properly treat brain damage has led to surge in military suicides (Image: PA)

Even a conservative ­estimate based on the US percentage shows that thousands of serving and former troops could have TBI and need help.

Experts claim the disparity in figures is because the British military does not screen for TBI after combat.

Psychotherapist Mandy Bostwick said: “There is plenty of evidence from internationally ­renowned scientists showing that blast TBI is now the signature injury of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

“There is a pathway for diagnosis and treatment which works, but the Ministry of Defence believes more research needs to be done.

“In the meantime, veterans are killing themselves in ever increasing numbers because they are wrongly diagnosed.”

During his time as shadow defence secretary, Tory MP Dr Liam Fox, said failure to properly treat TBI victims was dereliction of duty (Image: PA Wire/PA Images)

A brain injury summit held at the Centre for Blast Injury Studies at Imperial College in London in January was attended by international experts and members of the armed forces medical services.

A draft report seen by the Sunday People concluded there is an “urgent operational need to address the issues arising out of large numbers of military personnel and veterans with symptoms of blast traumatic brain injuries”.

But the MoD has been calling for more research since 2007 when the problem first surfaced in the US.

Tory MP Dr Liam Fox, who at the time was shadow defence secretary, said then that the failure by the MoD to properly treat TBI victims was a dereliction of duty.

He said: “Why should US troops be getting better care than British troops?”

Soldiers can suffer brain injuries after being involved in explosive blasts while serving in war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan (Image: Getty)

Since 2007, thousands of US soldiers have been treated for the condition and are now able to lead relatively ­normal lives.

Treatment involves stimulating the brain with a magnetic field, then mapping it with a MEG scanner, followed by a course of endocrine hormones.

In the UK, this would cost around £1,500 to £2,000 per patient – a similar amount to that in the US.

Dr Mark Gordon, who runs the Millennium Health Centres in Los Angeles, has treated US Navy Seal special forces and attended the brain injury summit in the UK in January.

He gave three SAS members and a Royal Marine a grant worth £2,500 so they could get his treatment.

He said: “As far as I am aware, they are all doing really well. We have a 75 per cent success rate so far. Most ­people see a significant improvement within 90 days of treatment.

“We have treated 348 military, from foot soldiers to a rear admiral, and they have returned to full activities.”

Recent advances in science have shown that a TBI caused by a blast is different to that caused by concussion. Symptoms of blast TBI include tiredness, dizziness, aggression, memory loss, sleeplessness and problems concentrating.

Dr Mark Gordon has treated US Navy Seal special forces and attended the brain injury summit in the UK in January.

The condition can also lead to ­physical child and domestic abuse.

Scientists claim that many sufferers end up in prison. In the UK, there are believed to be at least 3,000 veterans in jail but some estimates suggest the number is far higher. So far this year, there have been 49 self-inflicted deaths among veterans and serving personnel, and more than 200 since 2017.

Former Royal Marine Jeff Williams of Veterans United Against Suicide said: “This is an absolute scandal. Why are British troops not getting the same treatment as their US comrades? This is all down to money.”

One leading UK brain specialist, who asked not to be named, said he was appalled by the MoD’s attitude.

Members of the Commons defence select committee are also concerned and are set to hear evidence from Ms Bostwick next month.

She said: “Until we have accurate assessment, diagnosis and treatment with support for families, thousands suffering a blast injury to the brain will continue to be misdiagnosed and channelled into mental health services, leaving them at high risk of suicide.”

The MoD said: “We have a dedicated treatment programme for traumatic brain injuries and are leading research into the diagnosis, management and rehabilitation of patients.”

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QE1 Sacrifice

Andrew Marr is a medically retired Special Forces Green Beret who’s Traumatic Brain Injury trials and subsequent recovery through the help of Dr. Mark Gordon led him to co-found the Warrior Angels Foundation. The Foundation’s goal is to help other veterans alleviate their TBI symptoms through the Gordon Protocol by way of treatment, outreach, education, and research. Andrew’s best-selling book, Tales from the Blast Factory: A Brain Injured Special Forces Green Beret’s Journey Back from the Brink came out in late 2017. Andrew is also currently working with Emmy award-winning director Jerri Sher to produce Quiet Explosions: Healing the Brain, a full-feature Hollywood documentary about the groundbreaking solution that led to his recovery. Quiet Explosion is due out in late 2019.

The information below is discussed in greater detail in my  book Tales From the Blast Factory: A Brain-Injured Special Forces Green Beret’s Journey Back from the Brink. What I once thought was the worst thing in my life is now the best thing in my life, it can be the same for you. (I recommend we put in a link and enticing offer to sign up for our e-mail list here, please offer up your suggestion)

 

SACRIFICE

My wife, Becky, was six months pregnant with our first son (fourth child) during my last combat deployment. The plan was to come home for the birth and then go back to work, but sometimes plans change. Days before I was to return home for the birth of my son, my Special Forces (SF) team faced a major setback when one of our vehicles hit an improvised explosive device (IED) returning to our base after an intense mission and fire fight. Everyone in the vehicle survived, but the injuries sustained by our men would not allow them to operate for the remainder of that deployment. The team went from 11 SF Operators to 8 in the blink of an eye.

Life constantly presents us with choices. It’s the space between circumstance and response where our battles are won and lost. The duty to my team led to the contemplation of my roles as a husband, father, and leader. I understood there would be times I’d be faced with challenging situations in difficult circumstances.

Understanding the things in our lives that are worth sacrificing for provides a sense of purpose, meaning, and responsibility. Discovering our purpose allows us to better measure our focus and actions in pursuit of our goals.

The question we must ask ourselves is, “are the things we’re placing our focus on getting us closer to fulfilling our purpose or taking us further away?” If our thoughts, feelings, actions, and relationships are not in alignment with our purpose it’s time to pause and reflect. Defining the principles, ideals, and values that are most important to us gives us ready-made answers to the many question’s life presents us with. We’re either getting closer or further away from fulfilling our purpose, there is no middle ground. The choice is ours and ours alone, it is the birthplace of personal responsibility.

After seeing our vehicle blown up and assessing the damage to my teammates at the blast site, I made an instant decision to forgo returning home for the birth of my son who was due in a few weeks, the lives of my teammates depended on it. Becky and my children were safe. They were cared for and provided for. They had shelter. They had running water. Air-conditioning. Indoor plumbing. Refrigeration. Hospitals nearby. No threat of imminent danger. In our position, we had none of the above. I knew my soon-to-be-born son would appreciate that decision once he was old enough to comprehend it.

The things in life that are worth sacrificing for are never easy, if they were everybody would do it. The right sacrifices can provide us a meaning that allows us to become greater than our individual circumstance. What in your life is worth sacrificing for? If you can’t answer that question, I challenge you to use the principles presented and commit to discovering the answer. A life of purpose and meaning is yours for the making.

De Oppresso Liber,

Andrew Marr

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The Veteran Who Healed His TBI

The average blast wave travels at 163 mph, faster than the speed of sound and can pierce through your armor, skull, and brain tissue without drawing a drop of blood. Completely invisible damage. Causing further insult to injury, a blast wave can also send a grown man flying through the air, putting them at jeopardy for further head trauma.

As a special forces operator deployed multiple times in Afghanistan, I’ve experienced and survived hundreds of blast waves, and you always hear one before you feel it. The best way I can describe it is what I would imagine being struck by lightning would feel like; by the time you hear the thunderous clap, you feel the slap of over-pressure reverberate throughout your entire body.


I never thought in a million years that surviving these explosions seemingly unscathed would ever impact my life the way it has and strip me of the identity I had up until that point in my life, a Green Beret.

WHY I’M SHARING MY TBI STORY

I’m sharing my story as a commitment to help others suffering from Traumatic Brain Injuries heal and return to a state of normalcy, as I have. I serve those suffering from Traumatic Brain Injuries by giving them access to education and a scientifically-proven protocol to heal, formulated by Dr. Mark Gordon, the physician that helped me return to my pre-injury status in ninety days.

The Warrior Angels Foundation, in conjunction with revolutionary protocols designed by Dr. Mark Gordon, has duplicated the protocol used to help me return to my pre-injury status on over 300 service members and Veterans, and over 2,500 Traumatic Brain Injury case in total.

If you or a loved one suffer from a TBI or are interested in being a supporter of this revolutionary mission, click here or visit us at www.waftbi.org.

The “Invisible” Effects of a Traumatic Brain Injury

Although I didn’t know it then, I returned home in late 2013 from my last deployment as a special forces operator with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), a type of brain damage sustained by an estimated 2.5 million people annually per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Per research, TBI’s are commonly suffered by Veterans, athletes, former fighters and car accident survivors to name a few.

THE ONSET OF PILING SYMPTOMS

My return home seemed typical for a short while, but the consequences of the damage suffered during my last deployment began to surface six-months in. The first of the series of symptoms was a complete loss of libido, not normal for me as an extremely healthy thirty-two-year-old male standing 6’2” and weighing 225 pounds, who is very attracted to Becky (my wife). At first, I tried not to think much of the irregularity, although admittedly my wife was less than pleased and rather confused.

But as I stated, that was just the first of a series of symptoms additional symptoms that developed over the next four months which included being tormented by chronic fatigue, to the point where some days I didn’t even have the energy to get out of bed even after a long night of sleep. One after the other, symptoms such as recurring migraine headaches, micro-seizures, insomnia, and panic attacks began to take hold. The panic attacks got so bad and humiliating that I would have them in public in the weight room, or at home right in front of my young children.

In a mere handful of months, my wife and children witnessed the epitome of a man dismantle and disrupt, which was very confusing for us all because physically we saw no signs of harm. I looked the same, but I was no longer myself.

THE DECISION TO ASK FOR HELP

By April 2014, I was waking up in such a severe state of depression, that I would compare it to the state of depression that I would imagine would consume me had I woken up to my whole family having been murdered.

Yet, I had it all. I had the career of my dreams as a special forces operator, a beautiful wife, and the family that she and I always wanted.

After months of feeling the burden of advancing symptoms, especially panic attacks, and the calamity of a downward spiral which admittedly had begun to take a disastrous toll on my marriage and family, I came to the very harsh conclusion that I could no longer “ride this out” and that there was something serious transpiring even though we could not see the cause of it with our eyes.

One thing was clear: I had to let my Green Beret brothers know that I had become a liability to them.

TBI Diagnosis and Medication Cocktail

Upon receiving the message, my command was simultaneously very supportive and shocked. Fortunately, because of my career track concerning numerous combat engagements, when I spoke up, people listened. Looking back, my military colleagues listened because they thought:

If this can happen to Andrew Marr, then it can happen to anyone.

The custom was to link me with every medical specialist in the power of my command to a) diagnosis the cause of the symptoms and b) create a treatment protocol to help me get better.

Upon visiting several medical specialists, I was informed that I had suffered head trauma which caused a Traumatic Brain Injury due to my job requirements as a Special Forces Green Beret; I could not afford another blow to the head. I was diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury, as well as a mood disorder with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome and insomnia; and that was only the tip of the iceberg.

Complying to the protocol of these medical specialists landed me with 13 different medications, all of which were dispensed to manage specific symptoms but did not treat any underlying cause of the symptoms; my symptoms only got worse.

MEDICAL RETIREMENT FROM THE U.S. ARMY

When my command witnessed that I got worse rather than improved, I felt I had become a burden to them. In 1 year I was medically retired, which by Military standards is an incredible fast-track. According to the Veterans Affairs, I was 100% disabled due to 33 separate disabilities.

In what seemed like a blink of an eye I went from cutting edge elite high performer, to out on the street, my identity shattered.

To be given no choice but to withstand these symptoms and to have my identity as a Green Beret ripped from my grip was just too much for me to bear. To cope with the disastrous impact and the disappointing inefficacy of my medical treatment, I turned to whiskey.

The ER Visit That Changed My Life

Fast forward to September 2014, my wife Becky was nine months pregnant with our fifth child, and my excessive drinking had become so common that she had to ask me, “Can you keep your drinking down today so that I don’t have to drive myself to the hospital?”

It wasn’t enough to stop me. My leg had been killing me for three days and I needed to numb the pain.That same day we had to rush my 13-month-old son Jace to the Emergency Room. He suffered from a genetic lymphatic malformation in his neck, which blew up to the size of a softball and caused him to have trouble breathing.

As Jace was rushed into emergency surgery on the fifth floor of the hospital, my wife went into active labor with our youngest on the second floor. The pain in my leg at this point was so severe that I began to drag it as I walked between the second and fifth floor of the hospital. Fortunately, Jace was able to make it to emergency recovery in time for me to make it to the second floor to witness the birth of our youngest son, JoJo.

The physicians who kept eyeing me drag my leg as I walked through the hospital rushed me for images; a blood clot in my leg had broken off into both lungs and I had a bilateral pulmonary embolism. The doctor looked at me and said, “We have a very small window, this is a very high mortality rate.”

Drunk, I began to laugh and told the doctor and his team, “If you think this is going to kill me, get in line.”

THE PROMISE TO MY SON

At the bedside of my son Jace, looking at him sleep in emergency recovery, I popped my last pain pill and took a swig of my airplane bottle of whiskey (which at that point was how I operated 24/7 to cope).

At his bedside I had an epiphany that changed the course of my life: If I continued on the track  I was going, if I continue to wholesale buy everything that the medical system was telling me, it was going to kill me and it was going to ruin everything and everyone that I love.

I had two choices: to stay on the route I was going or decide to act and change what I don’t like about my medical treatment and life. Then, I made three promises to my son, which were as follows:

  1. I was going to get off all 13 medications and return to the man of my pre-injury status
  2. I was going to find a way to heal myself
  3. I was going to turn around and do the same thing for somebody else

And I made one more critical decision, to commit to my new identity and responsibility as a husband and a father. To this day, I have kept all of these promises.

The Proactive Search for Healing
After leaving the hospital, I became proactive in regard to my healing. I began to research alternative therapies to help heal my Traumatic Brain Injury, the majority of which the government was not willing to pay for. I didn’t care and plowed forward. I started to take an objective approach and ask others with TBI what was working for them.

More than anything, I wanted to understand why some things worked for some people with TBI and not at all for others. I did every single alternative treatment modality that you can think of; some of which were beneficial to me and some of which had reverse effects. It was during this time that my brother Adam and I began the Warrior Angels Foundation, founded and run by veterans.

BEING CONTACTED BY DR. MARK GORDON

Not long into my hunt to heal my TBI, we received some press by being featured in a Forbes article, connected to a neurological facility in Texas. Shortly after the article was published, I received an email from Dr. Mark Gordon who had years of experience treating Traumatic Brain Injuries and is recognized as a top leader worldwide in Interventional Endocrinology.

He and one of his patients had also been featured in Joe Rogan podcast. I listened to the podcast and I basically heard his patient Matt tell my story; what I was feeling was not specific to me, this problem was far bigger than me. What most attracted me to Dr. Mark Gordon while listening to the podcast, was that he spoke about the ability to objectively measure treatment results, which was a non-existent element in my medical treatment at the point.

TREATMENT PROTOCOL WITH DR. MARK GORDON

Dr. Mark’s treatment made sense to me and was easy for me to understand; we would test my hormone levels, receive the results and prepare to follow a two-step protocol: Step 1) Mitigate and modulate inflammation (which is a major factor of the several symptoms associated with TBI) and Step 2) Replace the hormones that my body was no longer making.

Before complying to treatment with Dr. Mark Gordon, I sought the council of my military endocrinologist to see if he would test and replace the hormones that I had low levels of; he denied my request for a Hormone Replacement Treatment Program and instead accused me of abusing anabolic steroids because he had never seen hormone levels so low in a patient who was not an abuser. This response made me irate and propelled me to link up with Dr. Mark Gordon in Southern California.

A GLIMPSE OF HOPE

During our first meeting, Mark ran the labs which we expected to receive in three weeks. He also decided to give me a provocative testosterone injection to see how I would react. Within a couple of hours, I began to feel different. Usually, bumper to bumper traffic would drive me mad and to have a fit, but I felt a semblance of calm even in traffic.


Then, I called my wife and talked to her for an hour, something  I hadn’t been able to do in almost a year.

This was the first time throughout a hellish year, where I had put a gun in my mouth several times and thought about ending my life only to end being a burden on my family, that I experienced a glimpse of hope.

HEALING MY TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY IN 90 DAYS VIA THE GORDON-PROTOCOL

I began treatment for my Traumatic Brain Injury with Dr. Mark Gordon in February 2015, and I was completely symptom-free within 90 days. I could make clear decisions, I felt like I was back on my feet, and I had the energy and clarity to work hard to repair damaged relationships with my family. Upon my recovery, it was time to commit myself to the third part of the promise I made to my son, helping others heal.

We have replicated my treatment results in over 2,500 head injury cases in total to date via specific neutraceuticals that support the body’s natural ability to produce the correct chemistry. Today, anyone with a Traumatic Brain Injury can access our treatment protocol.

Due to increasing demand, Dr. Mark Gordon and we at the Warrior Angels Foundation, have started our own physician network where we educate, train and certify other physicians to implement the Gordon-Protocol. Our goal is to help over 100 sufferers of Traumatic Brain Injuries and their families per year. If you want to learn more about our mission or you want to support Warrior Angels Foundation, visit www.waftbi.org.