Sunday, April 24, 2011

Acupuncture Used in Afghanistan to Treat Brain Injuries

The April 23-24 Wall Street Journal carried the story "Can Needles Soothe Wounded Warriors?" by Michael M. Phillips.

The article begins:
Marine Lance Cpl. Tristan Bell was injured in a jarring explosion that tore apart his armored vehicle, slammed a heavy radio into the back of his head and left him tortured by dizziness, insomnia, headaches and nightmares.

He is recovering on a padded table at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, beneath strings of soft, white Christmas lights, with the dulcet notes of "Tao of Healing" playing on an iPod and a forest of acupuncture needles sprouting from his head, ear, hands and feet.

In a bit of battlefield improvisation, the Navy is experimenting with acupuncture and soothing atmospherics to treat Marines suffering from mild cases of traumatic brain injury, commonly called concussions — the most prevalent wound of the Afghan war.
The article reports some amazing results, and all because in 2008 the Navy put a few doctors through a 300-hour acupuncture course.

One of these doctors, Cmdr. Keith Stuessi, arrived at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, planning to use these skills for sprained ankles and sore backs. He then came across an article about using acupuncture to treat PTSD and realized that many of the PTSD symptoms were similar to those of mild traumatic brain injury.

Read the rest of the article to learn about the specific amazing results.

Also read the Mrs. Lieutenant post "Important News for Treating Traumatic Brain Injury."

Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the author of the novel MRS. LIEUTENANT and her social media marketing company Miller Mosaic Power Marketing works with clients to use social media to attract more business. Read her social media marketing blog.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Important News for Treating Traumatic Brain Injury

The April 21st Wall Street Journal article "Feeding May Help Brain Injuries" by Shirley S. Wang begins:
Military personnel who suffer traumatic brain injury need to be fed adequately and immediately to reduce the severity of trauma and improve their chance of survival, according to a report by the Institute of Medicine, a finding that also has implications for people sustaining head injuries in other situations, such as sports and traffic accidents.

The report, commissioned by the U.S. Defense Department and released Wednesday, recommends that in the first 24 hours after head trauma, patients need to receive at least 50% of their typical calorie intake, including a higher-than-normal amount of protein, in order to reduce inflammation and swelling of the brain and provide enough energy to help the brain repair itself.

The intensive nutrition regimen should be continued for at least two weeks, the report says.

Read the rest of the article now
and then help spread the word to people who could be helped by this information.

Also read the Mrs. Lieutenant post "Acupuncture Used in Afghanistan to Treat Brain Injuries."

Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the author of the novel MRS. LIEUTENANT and her social media marketing company Miller Mosaic Power Marketing works with clients to use social media to attract more business. Read her social media marketing blog.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Doc RESTREPO Is a 15-Month Deployment Encapsulated in a Feature-Length Film

I’ve just watched the documentary RESTREPO and I’m not sure what I think of it.

Here’s the official explanation from the film’s website
RESTREPO is a feature-length documentary that chronicles the deployment of a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley. The movie focuses on a remote 15-man outpost, "Restrepo," named after a platoon medic who was killed in action. It was considered one of the most dangerous postings in the U.S. military.

This is an entirely experiential film: the cameras never leave the valley; there are no interviews with generals or diplomats. The only goal is to make viewers feel as if they have just been through a 90-minute deployment. This is war, full stop. The conclusions are up to you.
The Los Angeles Times quote on the site reads: “Coming after The Hurt Locker...This movie gives you the same edge-of-your-seat sense of suspense and awe.”

I would perhaps agree with the same sense of awe – for what our military is asked to do and what they actually do – but I would not agree about the same sense of suspense.

While I found THE HURT LOCKER a compelling story from the moment it started, I found RESTREPO confusing and disoriented. And while I understand that this probably was done to reflect the way the platoon at Restrepo felt, I found as a viewer that this was very disengaging.

For example, in one segment the platoon is on a very dangerous operation that goes on for several days. Then suddenly they are walking across snow. Was this part of the same operation? I don’t think so given the scene following the snow scene.

Perhaps as a former newspaper reporter I can’t accept a documentary that doesn’t make the who, why, where, etc. very clear.

I also felt the movie very slow – long stretches of beautiful mountain scenery can be slow going. And, yes, again, I suspect these sections were meant to represent the waiting that the men did between defending off attackers and going on patrol.

While there are actual combat scenes, including wounded and dead, the viewer sees much less than he/she would see watching a fictional war movie.

There are some interviews of the soldiers returned from the deployment. And I was particularly concerned about the soldier who is experiencing severe PTSD symptoms. He tries not to sleep rather than sleep and relive his nightmares.

Neither he nor anyone else mentioned treatment being provided for the experiences this platoon was exposed to.

Here’s a short video from the film:

And check out information about other war documentaries and feature films about war at

Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the author of the novel MRS. LIEUTENANT.

Monday, April 4, 2011

An Unwanted Gift: IEDs

Ex-British Special Forces soldier Theodore Knell wrote a poem too late to be included in his memoir "From the Corners of a Wounded Mind" (see my review of this compelling memoir). It is such a moving poem that I wanted to include it here with this introduction from Knell:

Corporal Liam Tasker was an arms and explosives sniffer dog handler working in Afghanistan. He and his dog, a Springer Spaniel named Theo, held the record for detecting the greatest number of IEDs on a single tour.

Liam was shot dead during a fire fight and Theo died of a seizure some two hours later -- some would say of a broken heart.

An Unwanted Gift

His little body shakes in anticipation
so eager to please
running along the narrow streets
searching every crevice
hoping to find his prize
personally I hope he doesn’t

he’s got something
“Good boy”,
you think so?
Now it’s my turn
but I’m not so eager.
Let’s hope it’s on its own,
but knowing my luck,
it’ll be what some sick bastard named a daisy chain

Buried at the foot of a wall
perfectly placed to channel the blast along the narrow street,
catching as many as they can,
but they’re too late
the boys have gone to ground
well back,
and like Meerkats,
with eyes wide
and heads on a swivel,
they now scour the area
protecting me like some precious jewel

Laying here alone
with my sweat soaking into the sand
I empty my mind of everything,
my wife and son
everything, except for the job in hand,
gently I clear away the earth
picking at it, like a child with a meal it doesn’t want
slowly exposing the deadly gift that’s been left for us
lifting each wire in turn
looking for those tell tale signs
the ones that will tell me it’s not alone

please God, keep my hands steady

I’ve only got a week to go

(c) 2011 Theodore Knell

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Coping With Combat Stress: Book Review and WSJ Article

Theodore Knell’s book “From the Corners of a Wounded Mind” is a moving and powerful memoir of a soldier’s life.

The power of Knell’s story comes from what he writes about as well as by including his own poetry as part of his reflections. You can read one of his poems in the guest post he did – “Ex-British Special Forces Soldier Talks About His Experiences and His New Nonfiction Book”

This one poem doesn’t do justice to the amazing ability Knell has to capture the essence of his years as a soldier, including the effect of combat on soldiers.

His book concludes:
I hope that the next time you see a serviceman or woman, or the old man sitting on the homeless shelter steps, proudly brandishing a chest full of medals, you will pause for a moment and try to look beyond that confident, sometimes brash, some would even say arrogant exterior, to the person that lies within. A person who has worked hard, seen things that none of us should ever see, and in some cases suffered horrific injuries without complaint, someone who will continue to suffer in some way, either physically or mentally, but mostly in silence for the rest of their lives.
Only a few hours after reading the ending of Knell’s book, I read the Wall Street Journal April 2nd front-page article “Rx for Combat Stress: Comradeship” by Michael M. Phillips:
GARMSIR, Afghanistan—The morning after Chad Wade died, nobody wanted to walk point.

The Marines in Cpl. Wade's squad no longer had to imagine what would happen if they stepped on a buried bomb. Now they had seen it, and the fresh memory of their friend's shattered legs froze them in place.

When their squad leader, Sgt. Albert Tippett, lined them up for their next patrol, no one would pick up the metal detector used by the point man to clear a path through the mines.
The article goes on to explain “the new approach to combat stress that the Marine Corps wants to institutionalize.”

This new approach appears to be an antidote to what Knell describes so powerfully in his book – the reluctance of soldiers to talk about their horrifying experiences.

Read the entire Wall Street Journal article now. Then read Knell’s paperback book on Amazon or the Kindle version.

And for information on PTSD and its symptoms, see

March 22nd tweet on Twitter from @VeteranJournal: Suicide hotline available for deployed soldiers: