The Iraq War has left thousands of American soldiers suffering from injury and disease, both physical and psychological. For many, returning home from the war zone is often as traumatic as being in the midst of the Iraqi conflict. Known as a condition coined “poly-trauma”, many U.S. soldiers are facing lifelong treatments through the veteran affairs program.
Poly-trauma is a term coined as part of the traumatic injuries inflicted upon U.S. soldiers. Simply defined as a condition in which the soldier exhibits serious and multiple physical and psychological injuries. From burns to amputations, from cuts, breaks and disease to psychological implications ranging from depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder and even hypervigilence. For these soldiers, the diagnosis of poly-trauma is often given.
When a U.S. soldier is diagnosed with poly-trauma, the diagnosis will immediately trigger the establishment of a life care plan through a team of positions. At the Veteran Affairs division, this team of doctors may include a general surgeon, orthopedic, internal medicine, psychiatrist, psychologist and even a dentist. With this team of physicians, the need for assistive living devices, lifelong physical therapy, home health care and social services are classified and the U.S. soldier is provided with the most efficient and comprehensive approach to his or her specific injuries and needs.
As a family member caring for a U.S soldier with poly-trauma, life can become quite stressful. Understanding that poly-trauma is not a clear cut diagnosis and, instead, is a diagnosis which encompasses a variety of diseases, injuries and conditions, will provide the supporting family with the information needed to become involved in the treatment of the U.S. soldier. In fact, family members, charged with the responsibility to provide this support, should assertively involve themselves in the life care planning meetings held by the life care plan team. Through direct communication with these healthcare professionals, the family can become more educated in the short term and long term health issues. For many families, unfortunately, an invitation to attend these meetings is not readily made by the healthcare team. As a result, the family must insist on being directly involved.
With the Iraq War continuing at full speed, there will be many more U.S. soldiers returning home with countless injuries and diseases. As a result, it is anticipated these soldiers will continue to be diagnosed as poly-trauma and continue to require life care plans. As family members supporting the U.S. soldier with poly-trauma, the key to optimal outcomes lies in the family’s assertive approach to becoming educated in the conditions of the U.S. soldier and maintaining consistent involvement in the life care planning.