Giffords Shows Support for McCain

Gabby Giffords may be a Democrat, but she also is an Arizonian and brain injury survivor.  Her husband, Mark Kelly, is a former astronaut who presumptively knows many fellow astronauts who have had a brain injury from their travel.  Politically, they differ from Senator McCain.  However, as a fellow Arizonian, his friend and his former colleague, she and her husband have expressed their hope for McCain’s recovery.

Kelly expressed the importance of maintaining a positive outlook, just as McCain did during his 5+ years detained as a prison-of-war during the Vietnam War.  Giffords tweeted, “You’re tough! You can beat this. Fight, fight, fight! I am proud to call you my friend.”

Prayers for Senator McCain

As has been widely reported, Senator John McCain was diagnosed with brain cancer on Friday of last week.  As if having to undergo brain surgery to remove what were thought to be benign brain tumors wasn’t enough, now that they are known to be malignant, McCain can look forward to a host of symptoms.  These symptoms can include vision problems, seizures, difficulties with concentration and thinking, difficulties with speech, etc.  In essence, the symptoms of brain cancer largely mirror those of brain injury.  In fact, the National Institute of Health has published the results of a study that shows that there is an, “association between traumatic brain injury and the subsequent risk of brain cancer.”

Despite his medical issue though, McCain has chosen not to stay idle: “Just hours after news broke of McCain’s brain cancer diagnosis, the Arizona senator blasted President Trump amid a report that the administration decided to halt a CIA training program for moderate Syrian rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime.”  Additionally, his diagnosis has produced an almost unheard-of-now bipartisan show of support, which could perhaps open the door for further cooperation.

Update: North Korean Trauma

Yesterday, June 19, 2017, Otto Warmbier succumb to the trauma he suffered for a year and a half while detained in North Korea.  Though Warmbier’s condition has generated more concern over international travel, his comatose mental state is curious.

He shows no signs of understanding language, responding to verbal commands or awareness of his surroundings,” said Kanter, Warmbier’s neurologist at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.  However, “He was home and we believe he could sense that,” said his father.

Warmbier’s death, and particularly the fact that it happened almost immediately after he was reunited with his family, begs the question: Does the unconscious brain have more of a sense of self than currently believed?

North Korean Trauma

An American university student who was returned to the United States this week after being held in North Korea for 17 months has a severe brain injury and is in a state of ‘unresponsive wakefulness’,” doctors told Reuters yesterday.  Specifically, Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old student of the University of Virginia, was returned to America and is now a patient at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he shows no understanding of any communication around him.  Given the limited amount of information provided by Kim Jong Un’s Korean military, the exact cause of Warmbier’s comatose state is not known.  However, one of the top assumptions is that his condition is the result of a traumatic brain injury.

Warmbier, originally from Wyoming, Ohio, has been in a coma for more than a year, shortly after he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for stealing a propaganda sign in North Korea, where he was a tourist.  (I assume that Warmbier stole the sign as a unique type of memorabilia, so he would always remember his once-in-a-lifetime trip.)

This week, the Warmbier family received a call from President Trump, which they termed “kind” of him.  On Wednesday, Secretary of State Tillerson said that America is now considering travel visa restrictions for North Korea.  (Before all of this, last month, a bill was introduced that would ban United States citizens from traveling to North Korea.)  The United Nations human rights division is also carrying out a thorough investigation into North Korea’s actions.

Not the Easy Answer in Charlotte

The country now knows about the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott by a police officer in Charlotte, NC.  This past Saturday, the police released the video of the shooting to the public, which purports to show the victim holding a gun.  Since Scott was killed, some of the public has decided that the actions of the police were racially motivated, as Scott was African-American.  (Scott was shot by an African-American police officer.)  However, I believe that if the public is to see this as discrimination, it is a case of TBI-related discrimination.

In the cell phone video filmed by Scott’s wife, she pleads with the police, saying that Scott had a traumatic brain injury.  In fact, Scott did fall from a motorcycle in October 2015, which would have more likely given him a brain injury, most likely severe.  Brain damage often interferes with one’s response time, which may explain why Scott was slow to exit the truck.  More so, a brain injury can interfere with cognition and understanding of the long-term consequences of one’s actions.  (This behavior is often intensified by fatigue, which is often the most severe in the late afternoon.  The incident occurred at 4PM.)  Based on those facts, Scott may not have understood the necessity of raising his hands.  Also, if Scott did have a gun, he would be more likely to use it.  (The videos of Scott’s death do not show that Scott had a gun; however, they also do not show that he did not have a gun.)

In Scott’s wife’s cell phone video, one can hear her pleading to the police, telling them that her husband had a TBI and he had just taken his medication.  However, she stops at that statement, not explaining how or when that TBI occurred or the severity of it, so, perhaps, the police did not take notice.   To fully understand the situation, Scott must be considered a man with a brain injury, who had just taken his medication, and who was confronted by an unexpected and stressful situation most likely with the excessive fatigue that occurs at the end of a day.

I am definitely not condoning the police officer’s actions.  However, in a sense, I am not saying that, in their view, it was unprovoked.  More than punishing the officer who shot the gun that killed Scott and more than claiming the shooting was a racial issue, I believe the public and the police force should factor in Scott’s medical history.  The police need specific training on how to handle interactions with those who have brain injuries and the public needs to be educated of the effects of brain injury, so that they do not jump to erroneous conclusions.

PTSD = Police Trauma Stress Disorder?

My thoughts are with the Baton Rouge police today, 3 of whom were shot and killed and 3 others injured. With this, and the events in Dallas last week, I understand that many police officers, especially the survivors of these attacks, may be experiencing some form of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  As President Obama said today, “Attacks on police are an attack on all of us.”  My best goes out to the families of those who lost their lives protecting this country and to all police officers.  I hope all Americans soon realize the good work that police officers, in general, do and that officers are given the respect that they deserve.

Horror in the Happiest City on Earth

Much news has come out relating to the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL on early Sunday morning.  This weekend, America had the largest mass shooting in its history, with 49 people killed and 53 others injured in a span of only a few minutes.

Unfortunately, of those hurt, “Those with head injuries could not be saved,” said Dr. Michael Cheatham of the Orlando trauma center.  A police officer was saved by his Kavlar helmet, worn as part of the police’s military-style equipment, which now shows the severe damage done by the bullet.  As for those who did survive, post-traumatic stress disorder is a major concern.

On Monday, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said, “I don’t think we [Orlando] change a bit.”  Dyer’s statement is an admirable wish, however no person or city can be the same after such an incident as they had this weekend.  Hopefully, though, Orlando can quickly return to being the city of theme parks and everyone can get past, but not forget, the horror of this weekend.

(At this point, many times over, Donald Trump has expressed his views on the Orlando massacre.  Obama has made a statement to which part, but not all, is a response to Trump’s comments.)