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The Silent Epidemic Affecting More than 95,000 Iowans

Emily Woodbury
Host Ben Kieffer talks with neuropsychologist Michael Hall, and veterans, Nate Warner, Josh Mulder, and Stephanie Lynn Waddell

March is Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) awareness month. TBI has been called a silent epidemic. In many cases, resulting injuries are not visible to others, and it affects more than 95,000 Iowans.

Falls, motor vehicle crashes, and sports injuries are the leading causes of TBI. Staff neuropsychologist at the Iowa City VA Health Care System and Director of the Iowa Consortium of Veteran Excellence, Michael Hall, studies brain trauma and works with veterans coping with common post deployment problems including TBI. He says that dealing with TBI over time is difficult because it takes so long to heal and is often misunderstood.

"I've had people say, 'I'd rather have an arm amputated than to have a brain injury, because then at least people wouldn't ask me what's wrong with me or assume everything's OK,'" Hall says. "We need to understand that Traumatic Brain Injury is a lasting issue that can impact all areas of functioning, both cognitive and behavioral."

Josh Mulder and his service dog, Traveler

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with Hall and gets the perspective of several Iowa veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He talks with Josh Mulder, who served four years in the United States Marine Corps. He survived a blast injury that left him with head trauma. He now has the assistance of his service dog, Traveler.

"When I walk around with Traveler, I'll actually have people come up to me like, 'Oh, why do you have a service dog, what's wrong with you, you're not disabled,'" Mulder says.

"People don't actually keep in mind that it's an invisible injury."

Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River