Friday, June 26, 2009

A Marine's July 4th Wish: Find a Cure for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Op-Ed for week of July 4, 2009

My July 4th Wish

By Dave Rosner

This July 4th, I have a wish. My wish is that a cure for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) be found. A cure that will save over one million lives—the number currently lost to TBI each year. Many of those lives belong to our brave men and women in uniform.

We live in the most advanced country in the world, and this gift should be used to end the pain of those who are suffering. As President Lincoln stated regarding veterans, "To care for him who shall have borne the battle." We have a particular obligation to care for those injured in service to our country.

As a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, I have seen the effects of TBI first-hand. I served in the first Gulf War and Iraq, and later I returned to Iraq as a comedian to entertain our troops.

I've also done shows for wounded servicemembers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Camp Lejeune, and veterans hospitals in Manhattan and Brooklyn, New York.

These experiences have given me direct insight into how severe a problem TBI is. The numbers alone are staggering.

TBI is found in 30 percent of the injured veterans sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. One and a half million Americans suffer TBI annually, from accidents such as the one that caused the tragic death of Natasha Richardson. Nearly 40 percent die within a few days.

There are few treatments for this type of injury. Currently no drug therapy is available. For the last 15 years, researchers at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center have been developing an artificial blood that can reduce the effect of brain damage by half.

Clinical trials have shown consistent signs of successful outcomes -- there are fewer deaths among TBI patients treated with Oxycyte, for instance. But the FDA has not yet put that drug on a "fast track" toward approval, resulting in the continuing and unnecessary deaths of far too many servicemembers and civilians. "

This year, my Fourth of July wish is to celebrate the search for a cure for TBI.

I realize the FDA is burdened with countless pending cases, but accelerating the consideration process for Oxycyte could make it available in war zones within months. Equally important, emergency rooms at hospitals around the country would also have access to it. We must act to make this happen.

A grassroots movement to make this therapy more readily available is spreading through the military. This movement needs to spread to all Americans. If your loved one were suffering wouldn't you want them to be treated with the most cutting-edge medicine?

May G-d bless America, our troops, and all of the men and women who are hoping for a cure for their loved ones.


Dave Rosner is a stand-up comedian, a U. S. Marine, and political/ military TV commentator. He is a veteran of the first Gulf war and more recently, the Iraq war.