News Blog

Moral Damage and Soul Wounding

Healing from Within

Warrior StoryField is a collaborative art project that seeks to bridge the gap between veterans and civilians by fostering community through the creative process. Their hope is to allow the unspoken, even the unspeakable, a voice by providing warriors with a sacred place for connection, conversation and expression that goes beyond words.
A similar conversation needs to take place in medicine. Functional Medicine (FM), defined asa systems biology–based approach that focuses on identifying and addressing the root cause of disease, is helpful in diagnosing effects of Blast injury. The root cause of PTSD, TBI, and Post Concussive Syndrome is most often the blast-caused untreated brain wound. With recognition of that simple shift in perspective, the VA could start a conversation with all their mental health professionals to focus on the wound to the brain. And the wound will not heal without extra oxygen, oxygen to fight inflammation, fire up the mitochondria, provide the energy to heal, fight cell death, and grow new blood vessels and brain matter.
No FM doctor is going to ignore the good that can be done by interventions with cognitive and behavioral therapy. And the role of emotional support for the wounded is almost too obvious. Yet a focus on healing both the physical brain wound and the spirit, the soul some would say, is intrinsic to healing moral injury.
A integrated set of skills is demanded to do this right. These are not new concepts. Paying attention to the Physical, Mental, Spiritual, Emotional, Psychological, Behavioral, Cognitive, and Social person with TBI/PTSD begins with asking the right questions. And proper diagnosis and treatment means knowing what is possible, what standard protocols overlook.
Several groups across the US are taking the time to do it right. One such group is KOTERRA. [Full disclosure: the author is a pro bono Board member]. Working out of Tampa, KOTERRA is getting it right. Combat veterans, particularly those damaged by blast injury, are suffering polytrauma: multiple wounds, many unseen and, sadly, some undiagnosed and all untreated. Patti Brady and her team get it. The foundational treatment for invisible wounds is hyperbaric oxygenation (HBOT). As one FM doc put it: HBOT is a sine qua non. Soft tissue injuries, pain, brain wounds, suicidal ideation, symptoms commonly called PTSD. All are addressed positively by oxygen under pressure. And KOTERRA is employing an array of tools, starting most often with HBOT, to help heal across the board.
Rosie Torres of BurnPits360, Debbie Lee of Americas Mighty Warriors, and the team at the 22 Project also get it. The Problem with Jon Stewart addressed Burn Pits with SECVA McDonough recently. In ten minutes, the Problem with Burn Pits revealed the same set of responses from the Secretary as we have heard for radioactivity, Agent Orange, Gulf War Syndrome, even cigarettes and opioids: the VA can’t “presume” to know of a scientific connection between whatever the disease is, and the cause of that disease. Thus, the VA is not responsible for “fixing” it, even in the grips of the epidemics and growing numbers of thousands of veterans brought down by a myriad of internal injuries.
The Secretary claimed he had plenty of money for a fix, but argued for more time, more studies, and, thus, more deaths. But the Secretary, like the last dozen before him, did not see the need for urgency in the face of this epidemic of suicides, TBIs, opioid deaths, cancers, and moral injury. Process trumps people.
One veteran, dramatically changed by HBOT, believes in prayer to help heal. For him, his prayers were answered when he was led to HBOT. His prayer remains that grace with lead the wounded to discover FM and alternative therapies like HBOT. He spent years languishing in pain and self-loathing. The VA kept information from him about treatments like HBOT that have been proven safe and effective. No Informed Consent was provided to him, despite endless rounds of off-label drugs, devices, processes, talk therapy, and failure to treat his brain wound.
This veteran and thousands like him know about moral injury, and the need for root-cause diagnostics for properly diagnosing brain wounds. We’ll be talking more about how fixing the “hard drive” will let the software run better.
The information provided by does not constitute a medical recommendation. It is intended for informational purposes only, and no claims, either real or implied, are being made.