By Kelly Kennedy – Staff writer
Posted : Friday May 8, 2009 12:36:05 EDT
When an improvised explosive device blew up in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004, Derek McGinnis, a former Navy corpsman, lost the bottom half of one leg.
But during a session about the importance of dealing with pain management while working with veterans with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, McGinnis found that no one seemed to believe him when he spoke of the great pain he felt in the remaining half of his leg months later.
Because the explosive had left bits of metal shrapnel in his leg, doctors couldn’t use an MRI to scan his thigh for other problems. Instead, they acted as if the pain were all in his head.
“It hurt not to be believed,” he told an audience of care providers May 7 at the Coalition of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans’ conference in Washington, D.C.
That pain, which he said burned day and night, made it difficult for him to make progress in any other area of his rehabilitation. Soon, he was transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, where a doctor diagnosed him with nerve damage and bone growth, and immediately began addressing McGinnis’ pain.
“I was hopping up and down on one leg because I was so excited that they believed me,” he said.
Since his pain was addressed, he has worked on his mental health issues and become so comfortable with a prosthetic device that he’s now a triathlete.
As organizations throughout the U.S. work to help combat veterans, the Coalition for Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans decided to bring them all together so they could share knowledge about what they’re doing and talk about what still needs to be done. CIAV is a clearinghouse of 50 agencies that seek to help veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.