Ohio veterans connect to resources through Dublin-based support group

Seventeen years ago, U.S. Army and Ohio National Guard veteran Corey O’Brien helped save the lives of other veterans, but he credits the Resurrecting Lives Foundation, based in Dublin, helps him save his own life.

O’Brien, 44, said the organization got him to treatment which benefited him and his family, including his wife and five children, after two tours of Iraq, which included disposal of unexploded improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

“As an engineer, we built a big mine pit, wired it up and blew it up on the spot. I’m not a hero, I just did my job. They said, ‘Hey, they have to go,’ and I made them disappear,” said O’Brien, a biology and environmental science teacher at Hamilton Township High School in southern Columbus, where he is also the school’s Purple Star liaison.

O’Brien is also a member of the advisory board of the Resurrecting Lives Foundation.

During the Memorial Day Parade in Dublin in 2017, O’Brien met Dr Chrisanne Gordon, founder of the Resurrecting Lives Foundation, a Dublin-based not-for-profit veterans support organization which focuses specifically on treatment. released veterans who have suffered a traumatic brain injury.

It was there that Gordon spoke of the need to not only thank veterans, but also a call to care for veterans, summing up the mission of the Resurrecting Lives Foundation.

O’Brien said the speech was so moving “that I felt compelled to come upstairs and thank her for all that she has done. I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for everything she has done through the Resurrecting Lives Foundation, including my recovery through a Transcendental Veterans Mediation program enabled by the foundation.” , O’Brien said.

“It equipped me with a mechanism to overcome obstacles in life,” he said.

The program works well for many veterans because it can be practiced at home, on your own schedule, typically for a 20-minute period, twice a day, O’Brien said.

The program helped O’Brien sleep, focus and communicate better, along with many other behavioral improvements that benefited his family and his career, he said.

While O’Brien is treated by veteran David Kidd, he attributes the opportunity to his “chance meeting” with Gordon and praises the program as an “excellent and little-known resource” that is valuable if it can “change the trajectory “of a single veteran’s life for the better.

The existence of the Resurrecting Lives Foundation may stem from the death of a 20-year-old US Army sergeant 14 years ago in Iraq, which was a catalytic event for the creation of the foundation.

Gordon, who is also the author of “Turn the Lights On: A Physician’s Personal Journey from the Darkness of Traumatic Brain Injury to Hope, Healing and Recovery,” said the first steps towards making the foundation came after the death of her friend’s son in Iraq. in 2008, and the death of another friend’s son two years later in Afghanistan.

“I honor their lives by caring for their returning brothers and sisters,” especially veterans dealing with the effects of TBI suffered while serving in the military, said Gordon, who has her -even suffered a TBI following a domestic accident.

On January 9, 2008, 20-year-old U.S. Army Sgt. Zachary McBride and five other soldiers from his detachment were killed when a bomb exploded in a house in Sensil, north of Baghdad.

According to McBride’s obituary, McBride, after graduating from an Oregon high school in 2005, turned down college scholarships to enlist in the U.S. Army, motivated to do so after watching the events of 9/11. September unfold on television in her high school class.

On July 19, 2010, 27-year-old U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Brian Piercy, serving in 82n/a Airborne Division, was killed by an IED that detonated in the Arghandab River Valley, Afghanistan.

The two soldiers were the sons of Gordon’s friends.

Over the next four years, Gordon, a medical practitioner, treated veterans and also volunteered to perform TBI assessments of veterans at hospitals where she said she performed cases where mild TBI diagnoses could have been missed.

At that time, drugs were the primary treatment for brain disorders and often masked or worsened symptoms, Gordon said.

Gordon said it was for the first time in McBride’s honor that she began volunteering to screen veterans at the Chalmers P. Wylie VA Outpatient Clinic in Columbus, and after McBride’s death, she learned more about the TBI-related injuries the soldiers had suffered after being exposed to IED blasts.

“I was called to action when (returning) Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were accused of ‘faking’ cognitive difficulties from IED blasts, (associated with normal MRIs) , Gordon said.

“(But) I knew, as a doctor and a patient, that a normal MRI is the usual presentation of what we call a ‘mild TBI’ and that means next to nothing about brain damage from an explosion,” , Gordon said.

To solve this problem, more complex tests, such as diffusion tensor imaging or a DTI MRI, are needed to “see microscopic lesions and pathways.”

Gordon recalled about seven veterans she treated who described symptoms she says inspired her to “strive to prove the existence of brain damage and its connection to the IED explosions.” , Gordon said.

At a time when concern about veterans showing symptoms of TBI was growing in the medical community, it was also growing in the veterans community, Gordon said.

Among those concerned for his fellow veterans was Ed Heckathorn, 49, a Pickerington resident and 1991 graduate of Reynoldsburg High School, who serves as a deputy in the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office.

Heckathorn served in the US military from 1992 to 1994 before beginning his current 23-year career in law enforcement. He also served in the U.S. Army Reserve from 1994 to 2004.

While being treated by Gordon for a joint injury, Heckathorn said their conversations turned to his time in the military and he realized how his military service — and those of other veterans he Gordon had treated – could have lasting effects.

“I once knew myself in my twenties and didn’t think (my military service) caused any long-term hurts, (but) it can catch up with you later in life if you don’t deal with it,” Heckathorn said. , who parachuted in as a member of the U.S. Army Rangers.

Sharing his own experience and learning from those of other veterans, Heckathorn began working with Gordon on his mission to raise awareness of undiagnosed TBIs soldiers had suffered.

Such conditions can remain undiagnosed and untreated after a soldier’s transition from military to civilian life, Heckathorn said.

While obvious physical injuries are treated, others, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD and TBI-related injuries, may be overlooked, according to Heckathorn.

“There’s a void there,” said Heckathorn, a board member of the Resurrecting Lives Foundation.

Gordon’s effort to bridge that gap includes his production of a 2013 documentary, “Operation Resurrection.” The Resurrecting Lives Foundation, established as a nonprofit in July 2014, bears his name.

Today, the Resurrecting Lives Foundation continues to raise awareness for veterans with symptoms of TBI, lobby for legislation that supports their cause, participate in the efforts of other organizations to raise awareness of the same issue, and provide guidance to veterans fighters to a myriad of support and resources.

“In many cases, veterans feel they have exhausted conventional avenues of obtaining services through local VAs and clinics. We are collaborating to find these services for veterans who are still struggling with the invisible wounds of war. caused by TBI and PTSD,” Gordon said.

The organization has reached veterans throughout Ohio and 29 states, according to Gordon.

For more information about the Resurrecting Lives Foundation, visit resurrectinglives.org or email [email protected]

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Virginia S. Braud