Monday, March 28, 2005

"Terri's" budget cuts

The Bush budget proposal of last month continues to amaze. Little noticed in the pre-Schiavo circus days was the complete zeroeing out of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Federal Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Program. It wasn't a lot of money ($9 million), not even a fourth of the $38 million additional (to $206 million) for the federal sexual abstinence program that demonstrably doesn't work (or even works in reverse). The HRSA TBI Program was chump change. But highly symbolic of priorities.

Doubly damning in that an unusually high proportion of injured Iraq war veterans have some kind of traumatic brain injury.
A growing number of U.S. troops whose body armor helped them survive bomb and rocket attacks are suffering brain damage as a result of the blasts. It's a type of injury some military doctors say has become the signature wound of the Iraq war.

Known as traumatic brain injury, or TBI, the wound is of the sort that many soldiers in previous wars never lived long enough to suffer. The explosions often cause brain damage similar to "shaken-baby syndrome," says Warren Lux, a neurologist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

"You've got great body armor on, and you don't die," says Louis French, a neuropsychologist at Walter Reed. "But there's a whole other set of possible consequences. It's sort of like when they started putting airbags in cars and started seeing all these orthopedic injuries."

The injury is often hard to recognize — for doctors, for families and for the troops themselves. Months after being hurt, many soldiers may look fully recovered, but their brain functions remain labored. "They struggle much more than you think just from talking to them, so there is that sort of hidden quality to it," Lux says. (H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY)
Physicians at Walter Reed Army Medical Center have surveyed all returning soldiers injured in explosions, vehicle accidents, falls and gunshot wound to the face, neck or head. They found evidence of TBI in 60%. In 2003 there were 437 cases of TBI, with slightly more than half showing permanent brain damage. Results at other military medical centers are similar. The HRSA money is directed to help cash-strapped states prevent traumatic brain injury, improve rehabilitation outcomes through research, strengthen and improve State systems to better serve individuals with traumatic brain injury and their families, and advocate for and protect the rights of individuals with traumatic brain injury and their families. In other words, the kind of programs that help discharged veterans with TBI. Like this person:
In severe cases, victims must relearn how to walk and talk. "It's like being born again, literally," says Sgt. Edward "Ted" Wade, 27, a soldier with the 82nd Airborne Division who lost his right arm and suffered TBI in an explosion last year near Fallujah. Today, he sometimes struggles to formulate a thought, and his eyes blink repeatedly as he concentrates.
They can't spend $9 million for this but they can spend $209 million for abstinence education that doesn't work.

That says it all. What a bunch of miserable hypocrites.