The consequences of war and conflict on our nation’s veterans are not always easily apparent. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), post-concussion syndrome and traumatic brain injury, as well as chronic pain from migraines and other conditions are many of the ‘invisible wounds’ that they face when they come home. Now, these stories are being told in a series of portraits painted by former President of the United States, George W. Bush, in a new book and public exhibition entitled Portraits of Courage: A Commander-in-Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors.
Of all the publicity, one particular veteran caught our attention: Michael Rodriguez, former Army Special Forces Green Beret. Rodriguez carries the physical trauma of at least a dozen concussions which he endured over the course of 21 years and 9 deployments. Officially diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI), Rodriguez endured all the accompanying symptoms such as TBI light sensitivity and photophobia, headaches, double vision and dizziness. He even hid himself behind sunglasses all day to avoid the pain of light.
Through his inspiring contact with former President Bush, Rodriguez found renewed motivation to address these issues, which led him to try prosthetic contact lenses. One of them was tinted dark brown—similar to the reddish-brown tint used on TheraSpecs photophobia sunglasses—to help with his light sensitivity. We don’t know if it was the precision tint that we utilize, but we do know that Rodriguez was able to find relief for many of his neurological symptoms. He also began to reconnect with his loved ones, especially since he was no longer forced to hide his eyes all day from wearing sunglasses.
Rodriguez is just one of the veterans showcased in the new exhibit, all of whom served in the armed forces after 9/11. Former President Bush came to personally know each of the men and women he painted, and he hopes one outcome will be to soften the stigma of invisible illness.
“A lot of these vets get stigmatized and they say, ‘I don’t want anybody to know I’m struggling.’ You can’t help a person who is not willing to be helped,” Bush told PEOPLE Magazine. “My message is that it’s courageous to talk about your injuries—those you can see and those you can’t see.”
March is also Brain Injury Awareness Month, so it is encouraging to read stories of veterans who have been able to regain some of their daily function and activities, especially due to the higher rates of TBI and concussion-related injuries that they experience. Many TheraSpecs customers have also been able to find light sensitivity relief after TBI or concussion. If you are a veteran, we would also encourage you to see if you can get access to TheraSpecs through the VA. Regardless, we love seeing these stories being told more and more often.
We applaud former President Bush and all those who remain committed to shining a spotlight on this important issue.
Images courtesy of George W. Bush Presidential Center: www.bushcenter.org
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