Sunday, September 09, 2007

Perspective: Families wage the fight for the brain-injured

Above: Vincent Mannion at the Army Jump School, Fort Benning Georgia in October of last year.

He never saw the trip wire.

US Army Private Vincent Mannion, hunting for insurgents near Tikrit, Iraq, on March 11, had just kicked down a steel gate when a booby trap made of two large mortar shells detonated.

A storm of shrapnel, incinerating heat, and a concussive force brought the cinder-block structure down on top of him and Sergeant Daniel Woodcock, his team leader in the 82d Airborne Division. Woodcock was killed. Mannion, a 19-year-old who grew up in West Roxbury, sustained deep shrapnel wounds to his arm and torso. He was unconscious, but alive. The more devastating injury was not yet visible.

The blast wave had rumbled through his brain, a sudden shock of high pressure then low that severely damaged his cerebral lobes while leaving his cranium - and the Army helmet meant to protect it - intact. He had suffered the signature wound of the war in Iraq: traumatic brain injury, or TBI, which has been diagnosed in nearly 3,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

But if Mannion's devastating injury is tragically common, his case may prove critical to other wounded veterans across the country.

Read the rest at the Boston Globe