Dr. Chrisanne Gordon, a Marysville, Ohio physician, has partnered with the Los Angeles based National Veterans Foundation to define and promote coordinated solutions to the health, education and employment issues our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans encounter once they return home. Her involvement quickly grew after an initial call to the Columbus Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in 2008, as the need for rehabilitation and support came to light.
“When I called, I was just looking for a way to honor the memory of my friend’s nephew,” said Dr. Gordon. “I figured I would end up working on something like care packages for our troops. It turns out that they had me start doing traumatic brain injury (TBI) screenings, working two days a month.”
She quickly saw the effect that TBI has on returning troops and their families, friends, employers and communities. It’s estimated that 10,000 military members suffer from TBI in Ohio alone, with an estimated 400,000 affected throughout the country. TBI typically results from an external force, causing the brain to collide with the inside of the skull. In cases with veterans, TBI can result from the concussive effect of a blast, like a nearby improvised explosive device (IED) or rocket explosion. It can lead to permanent or temporary impairment in cognitive, behavioral or physical functions. TBI is often described as the “invisible signature injury” of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
“Here I was in rehab medicine for the first five years of this war, not even knowing this was going on,” Dr. Gordon said. “If I didn’t know this was happening, what about everyone else? I’m in the specialty that should be taking care of this. We need to bring together all of the resources available to these returning heroes.”
After working with the Columbus VA for a year, her journey took her to the Ohio National Guard where she continued treating many soldiers returning home with traumatic brain injuries. In 2010, a partnership with Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, a former lightweight boxing world champion turned filmmaker, expedited the growth of the movement. On the board of the National Veterans Foundation, Mancini was very interested in improving the support services available to veterans. Dr. Gordon and Mancini quickly joined forces and production began in November for “Operation Resurrection” http://www.operationresurrection.com, a documentary and a movement to detail the effort assisting struggling service men and women who have just returned from war so they can come “back” to life.
“What I want to do with the documentary is to make the country aware, the healthcare providers, the employers, the families, and the warriors aware that they are not alone,” Dr. Gordon said. “We can all work together and help bring back this brain, this body, this warrior, this family, and this community to a good, steady state where there will be employment, there will be hope, and there will be a future.”
The film includes interviews with veterans, judges, health-care providers, lawmakers and employers in hopes of joining together people in a position to help. The trailer will premiere on Veterans Day this year, 11/11/11, in all 50 states at 11:11am, challenging every citizen, community, and state to create positive solutions for a successful homecoming of troops.
“Our documentary is not a political effort,” clarifies Dr. Gordon. “Our only aim is the resurrection of each individual citizen-soldier who has volunteered and sacrificed on behalf of our country. We’re focusing on solutions to health, education, and employment for these men and women as they work to reintegrate into life.”
Without adequate awareness, treatment and support, veterans are likely to encounter a variety of barriers toward reintegration. Veterans suffering from TBI face unemployment, divorce, depression and suicide at rates higher than non-veterans. Additionally, nearly 70 – 90% of individuals with TBI ingest alcohol or drugs in an effort to self-medicate their symptoms, which often leads to run-ins with the law. Thankfully, organized solutions are beginning to strengthen. Established programs are taking shape across the nation as more and more people begin to listen to returning troops, providing support and working to connect veterans with available resources.
“My goal is to establish educational, vocational, and employment opportunities for the 65,000 Ohio veterans of the OIF/OEF conflicts,” resolves Dr. Gordon. “We need to listen to our returning heroes and decide what can and must be done to resurrect the lives of our warriors, our warriors’ families, and the institutions and agencies that strive to care for them.”
Dr. Gordon graduated summa cum laude from The Ohio State University College of Medicine in 1977, after completing her undergraduate studies at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. She has experience in internal medicine, emergency room medicine, occupational medicine, and rehabilitative medicine, and is board certified by the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Since 1988 Dr. Gordon has served as Medical Director of Rehabilitation Services at Memorial Hospital. She has also served as Medical Director of Honda of America from 1988 through 1997 and currently serves as a consultant to Honda and surrounding companies in Union County. Her recent “tour of duty” included a part-time position at the Chalmers P. Wylie Veterans Administration Clinic in Columbus, where she performed evaluations for the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with suspected traumatic brain injuries.