By Army Staff Sgt. Victor Medina
From Elaine Wilson, Family Matters Blog Editor: I’d like to introduce guest blogger Army Staff Sgt. Victor Medina, who sustained a moderate traumatic brain injury during his third deployment in Iraq in 2009. Several months later, Medina started a blog titled “TBI Warrior” to help educate other survivors and caregivers affected by a brain injury through his own experiences — before and after TBI. He shared his story in a Defense Centers of Excellence Blog on March 2.
Let me take you back to the first day of my new life. The day was June 29, 2009. The mission was a mounted patrol to escort supplies and route reconnaissance from a main contingency operating base to a joint security station. The route would take about three hours. We maneuvered through one of the largest cities in Iraq during the three-hour mission.
As we exited the city limits, the event occurred that changed my life forever. An explosively formed projectile impacted our vehicle.
The next 48-plus hours are a blur in my mind, still. Most of what I can remember about the event is because of the stories others have told to me. I do remember the smoke and the confusion that followed the accident, but I don’t remember fainting. I remember waking up in an aid station feeling very confused and overwhelmed. I learned I had sustained a moderate TBI.
Today, after 16 months of rehabilitation, I look back and think: “It has been a long recovery.” Life is not the same; I have changed. The people who knew me pre-injury can clearly see the difference. I still cope with lingering side effects. Problems with my vision, hearing, balance, headaches, speech disfluency, including the obvious cognitive impairments, are all there. I am not the same as I was before the injury. The truth is that I’ve tried to be the old me but just haven’t been able to succeed at it.
My new philosophy in life and with the injury is: “If this is the hand life dealt me, I will play the best game possible.” Is it frustrating? Yes. I encourage others not to focus on the negative things of the past or present, but rather set eyes on a bright future. I believe survivors of mild or moderate TBI have the power to be as independent as they want to be, regardless of the symptoms. I always ask survivors to stop and ask themselves: “Are you a victim?” or “Are you a warrior?”
With or without injury we are responsible for our actions and our future. Life is about decisions, and you can choose to stand up and make the best out of your life. I decided to stand up and help others. I decided to be an example; and that’s how TBI Warrior started.
It humbles me when others feel empowered and motivated by my experiences. The Army taught me the value in “selfless service.” That is the value I choose to carry with me to help others. I always say that my mission is not about me but about all those who come behind me. TBI is not the end; it can be a new beginning. The effects may not go away, but “it will get better.”
March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. For resources, check out the Defense Centers of Excellence Brain Injury Awareness month website.